In this job, you get lots of phone calls. Most of them are result-based, coaches calling in results from one event or another. Some, though, are tips or rumors that may or may not end up being true.
I recently got a call from Joliet Herald-News sports editor Dick Goss telling me that he got a call saying that Morris was starting up an American Legion baseball team.
This perked my ears up, because we haven’t had one of those for a long time around here. So I asked Morris varsity baseball coach Todd Kein whether he had heard of this, and he said he heard of a 14-and-under team, but was unsure of the American Legion connection. He gave me the number of one of the assistant coaches, Jason Moore.
Moore currently assists Kevin Fischer in running a 14-and-under team through the Morris Tomahawks organization, but one of the main sponsors is Morris American Legion Post 294. The Post said that they would love to sponsor a Morris-based team, so Fischer is talking with the American Legion organization in Champaign, and the Morris team will be a part of the league in that area next summer.
Moore said that the hope is that Morris can drum up enough interest to have both a junior (13-15 years old) and senior (16-18 years old) next summer.
“The goal is to play prototypical American Legion baseball,” Fischer said. “We really want to start keeping the core of the kids that will form the Morris High School team together during the summer. We have six players from Morris right now, along with four from Coal City and one from Mazon. The American Legion post has been 100 percent behind us and they think it’s great that we are getting the program going again.”
The Morris team is 29-2 so far this summer and recently finished fifth at the prestigious Brad Wallin Tournament in Peoria after entering as the 10th seed out of 48. They will soon take part in the Du
Page River Valley Conference tournament and a Field of Dreams tournament on the set of the movie in Dyersville, Iowa.
“Our goal is to give as many kids a chance to play summer ball as we can,” Fischer said. “Not just the kids whose parents can afford the expense of travel ball. We are trying to set up a program where the kids might work at the Grundy County Fairgrounds and Speedway to help earn some money, too.”
From my own experience, I think it would be great if Morris had its American Legion team back on the field. We had a very good team back in the day, as we brought in players from Coal City, Mazon, South Wilmington and Minooka, among others, as well as all of us from Morris. It was kind of like a Grundy County all-star team, and we had a great couple of summers together.
Phil Dinelli was our head coach back then, and while we worked and played hard, he also understood the value of having fun. Each summer, he scheduled a long road weekend where we would have to spend the night in a hotel together. One year we went to Peoria and another to Champaign.
I remember during the Peoria trip, we were playing while the famous “Ryne Sandberg game” of 1984 was going on. Parents were listening on the radio and came to our dugout telling us that Sandberg had tied the game twice with late home runs off Bruce Sutter. We could not believe what we were hearing, and we gathered around a TV once we got back to the hotel to try to catch some highlights.
Just little things like that help a team come together. It’s the shared experiences off the field that make a team tight and build chemistry that can be so important on the field. A high school team can’t do that if they are spread out all over on different teams during the summer.
• Rob Oesterle is the senior sports writer for the Morris Herald-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.