Local coaches reflect on the American Legion baseball season while looking toward uncertain future

Cedar at Dixie American Legion baseball, St. George, Utah June 17, 2020 | Photo by Ryne Williams, St. George News / Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE — When the spring sports season rolls around, the sport of baseball comes to mind for many. The sound of the lawnmower, the crack of the bat and the sound of the ball hitting the glove are all some of the things that come along with it. For baseball athletes this spring, there was no season but the American Legion season came to the rescue to some extent.

Cedar at Dixie American Legion baseball, St. George, Utah June 17, 2020 |. Photo by Ryne Williams, St. George News / Cedar City News

The American Legion season ends on Thursday but the only two local teams to make it into the tournament, the Southern Utah Buffaloes (Pine View) and the Hurricane Vipers (Tigers), were both eliminated over the weekend. While teams may not have accomplished the high goals they set, the summer league did get athletes back onto the field where they were able to enjoy the small things about the game of baseball.

For Pine View head baseball coach Glen MacLellan, he missed the chatter of his players on the field.

“I think for me honestly it’s definitely just hearing the boys, the chatter, the intensity, the laughing and just the good times we have together,” MacLellan said. “That’s what I missed the most, being around the boys and watching them be around each other.”

He also spoke to the relationships built between players during the season, but MacLellan still pondered what could have been if there would had been a UHSAA-sanctioned high school season.

Cedar Reds vs. Lone Peak Misfits, American Legion 17U state tournament, Hurricane, Utah, July 14, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“It seems like a lot of talk about what we missed throughout the year, not being able to play the season and watching your boys play, grow and develop makes you wonder what kind of season they would have had at the high school level,” MacLellan said.

The same goes for Shane Johanson and his Hurricane team. The Tigers have finished below .500 in the past couple of UHSAA seasons but their American Legion team won their region and played in a couple of state tournament games. When Johanson spoke with St. George News, he said it is hard to look back on a season that still stings but his team and program gained some important experiences out of it.

The youthful Tigers roster was able to go into a state tournament type of atmosphere and see the level at which they have to compete to be successful. With the gained experience, Johanson said that the program continues to be on the rise.

“What I look to in the future is guys who have put in a lot of work and have learned and continue to learn how to play baseball the right way,” Johanson said. “For a lot of years, Hurricane as a program … no one has listened to or cared about. Just chalk up a couple wins and get us on the schedule. We feel like we’re in a place where we’re a tough out and we’ll compete every single game from top to bottom.”

He added that the Tigers are no longer content with moral victories. They showed that this summer and have already begun to hit the weight room and the diamond in an effort to get better. Johanson said that a number of players are eager to back onto the field and improve.

For the Panthers, the lost UHSAA season sparked a fire in some of their players.

“Absolutely, anytime we could open up for them they were there,” MacLellan said of his players wanting to get into their facilities. “As often as they could be there, they were there. They were really trying to work hard and work on something.”

Both coaches agreed that it was a, ‘you don’t know what you have got till it is gone,’ situation. MacLellan added that his players learned that it is a privilege to play the game of baseball and it is something that can be stripped away from you at any time. The maturity that the Panthers gained from the experience, as well as the loss of their season, was the biggest takeaway.

Pine View at Cedar American Legion baseball, Cedar City, Utah June 9, 2020 |. Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

For Johanson and the Tigers, their team appreciated the season and was happy to be able to play at all. He characterized the last few months as a roller coaster.

“From everything being pulled away, not knowing what was going to happen, to being able to get back on the field, participate and play,” Johanson said. “I had conversations with a couple of our seniors on Saturday and Sunday about what it meant to them. Some of it positive and gratitude for how it went and also resurfacing those feelings of frustration. That’s the world of sports, things rarely work out as you planned them.”

While the UHSAA and the sports world begin to move into new guidelines and procedures, Johanson expressed that things are not like they used to be. They continue to check temperatures as players enter the field and take heightened safety precautions to ensure the participants’ safety. He said they can no longer just head down to the ballpark and have everything be okay.

While the players look ahead to the fall sports they may be competing in, or even the spring baseball season of 2021, nothing is set in stone and that is a bit of a struggle for Johanson.

“You don’t know what the future brings so it’s a challenging thing for sure,” Johanson said.

Regardless of what the future holds, the hope is that come the spring of 2021, you can pass by your local high school and hear that crack of the bat, the players raking the field, or the chatter and laughter of the athletes playing the game they love.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!