PLYMOUTH — The Post 27 baseball team will have a new identity next year.
The Plymouth American Legion squad unveiled its new Diamond Spyders mascot and logo at the team’s annual banquet at the Post 27 hall on Tuesday.
According to General Manager and Marshall County Judge Dean Colvin, the mascot should help give the team some identity as it plays in independent, non-American Legion events over the summer.
“I thought as a team we needed our own identity in places and tournaments and those sorts of things that we go to. We play in some independent tournaments, and if we go as the Post 27 Diamond Spyders, that would give us an opportunity for our own identity with independent teams outside the American Legion,” he said. “I think that fans will relate to it. It’s like if you’re the Panthers, the Lions, whatever nickname similar to what high schools have. The Spyders was unusual; I mentioned we did a web search on it, and we couldn’t find too many baseball teams that were even referred to as the Spiders. I think it’s going to be a unique marketing tool for us.”
Several other proposals were discussed at Tuesday’s banquet, including preliminary plans for a golf fundraiser in the spring of 2012, the opportunity to bid on the American Legion State Tournament in the summer of ‘12, and the intention of making Post 27’s second annual Patriot Tournament next year an all-wooden bat affair.
Changes to American Legion baseball league policy were also outlined, as teams will now be allowed to recruit from a 6,000-student population, up from the previous 5,000, and college athletes will no longer be eligible to return to American Legion play in the summer beginning in 2013.
“That’ll change the way we recruit too because we’ll have to pay more attention to younger players in order to bring them up and develop them in the program as far as our depth chart goes,” said Colvin. “We’ve got a lot of talent that we missed. If we’re three deep or four deep in a position, we’re not going to bump an older kid out. It’s not something we’re inclined to do.”
Coaches of the area high school teams from which Post 27 recruits were also presented with bats and the first-ever Julian Keiser Commander’s Awards, named for the post’s commander, at the banquet.
Tony Plothow of Plymouth, Mike Hepler of Warsaw, Scott Upp of LaPorte and Brian Hooker of Rochester were all present to receive their awards, while Culver Community’s Mike Elliott, Bremen’s Bo Hundt, John Glenn’s John Nadolny, LaVille’s Dan Jones, Triton’s Jim Shively, Oregon-Davis’ Greg Estok and Tippecanoe Valley’s Ryan Moore were also honored as coaches in Post 27’s 11-school recruiting pool.
The evening’s featured speaker was Indiana State head baseball coach Rick Heller, entering his third season at the helm of the Sycamores next spring. Heller was himself an American Legion player and was invited to Post 27’s banquet after recruiting pitcher James Hackworth during a tournament in Terre Haute last summer.
“When our guys were down playing in Terre Haute, James pitched in a game, and Coach Heller and his staff were there watching Mr. Baseball (A.J. Reed) pitch, and Hackworth went head to head with him and caught Heller’s attention,” said Colvin. “He got in contact with our staff that was down there. (Post 27 assistant coach) John (Scott) was an ISU graduate and talked about doing the banquet, and he said ‘Sure.’ He was right up here to see us.”
The story of Hackworth’s recruitment is not an uncommon one. In fact, one of the primary reasons Post 27 started up its baseball program after South Bend Post 357 closed its program due to financial concerns more than 11 years ago was to give players a chance to be seen by coaches and talent scouts at the next level.
“When we put this together, Dean wanted a chance for kids to play baseball at different levels to keep them active in the summer and to give them a chance to play at the next level,” said Plothow, the head coach of Post 27 as well as PHS. “We’ve had a lot of kids go on. Just like Coach Heller said tonight, there’s a chance for college coaches to see them one more time and see them in a team atmosphere. We get a lot of interest letters and emails, a lot of people asking for references. That was our first goal to get kids to play at the next level.”
Indeed, American Legion events offer coaches a unique opportunity to see players in a team atmosphere, as opposed to showcase events where scouts see dozens of players over a short span, says Heller.
“I like to watch guys that play in a real team environment,” said the ISU skipper. “A lot of time you lose that with some of the showcase situations. You might see 100 guys in four hours, and it’s really difficult to find out as a player what kind of savvy he has or knowledge of the game or anything like that.”
“A well-run Legion team is trying to go to a world series, win a championship, all those things that you can do in organized baseball. I just think there’s a lot of positives in that,” he added.
While Tuesday’s banquet did address some serious business, the mood was generally light as coaches regaled the audience with anecdotes of last season, and team members and their families were given an opportunity to reconnect with old friends.
“It’s always nice to see your old teammates because some of them you won’t see again,” said Post 27 pitcher and PHS senior Jordan Scheetz. “We pretty much became family over the season, and I’ve been with some of these guys for two years now. It’s good coming together once again to eat out and talk about the season that we had… it’s a good time.”
“Some of these guys are not going to be back next year, plus you get a chance to see some guys from some former teams that have shown up over the years. That’s why we started this years ago, hoping that we would get this kind of turnout and this kind of response,” said Plothow. “It’s been a great family-type atmosphere for 11 going on 12 years now. It’s always good to see people when they’re home for Christmas from college. It’s good to catch up and maybe catch up with emails and see what people are expecting to do in college playing ball or just at college. We always look forward to this every year. Dean and the Legion really put on a nice banquet.”