Play Ball!

Ankrik Moreno, 13, connects with the ball in the batting cages at practice on Tuesday. The team works hard to get ready for games that start next week.
By: 
Kevin Fisher

As symbolic a move as could be had, Jonathan Reiter meticulously replaced a light bulb – one of 126 on the scoreboard – on a cool Sunday afternoon.

Those new lights will shine brightly as Glenrock’s brand new American Legion team takes this field this summer – a season that almost never happened.

The Legion team, with some help from the 5A players, deep cleaned the field last weekend as they prepared for their first season. New lightbulbs were installed in the scoreboard, the concession areas were scrubbed, dugouts cleaned and infield raked and leveled in preparation.

While every field gets prepped for the season, this time, it was special. Coach Allen Jennings could tell that his players were excited for their first game, and that sense of accomplishment and hope moved through the team as if an electrical charge.

Eager anticipation lingered in the air as the guys donned their sharp new jerseys, hats and jackets at the end of the field cleanup, and they excitedly coordinated plans to wear the same new gear to school in solidarity, gushing over the new threads. It was Christmas come early, indeed.

Clad in a sharp, contrasting gold-and-purple, there is no mistaking the new team as anything else except Glenrock. The lids, with a solid color scheme, feature a profile view of a knight’s helmet, with the plume and outline of the logo outlined with the contrasting team color.

Until now, Glenrock teens 16 or older had the choice of playing baseball with a Casper team, shelling out money for a traveling team, or playing recreationally with friends.

Today, 15 players have formed the inaugural team of American Legion Jesse Martin Post #9 Glenrock Knights. The post is the third-oldest in the state, having been formed in August 1920, but it has never sponsored a Legion baseball team in all that time.

So some, including Jennings, wanted to change that. Their dream was to bring it all together this summer and offer Glenrock a chance to see their hometown talent in action.

It wasn’t just handed to them, however. Before the team could organize, some pretty deft maneuvering was necessary to ensure the team would have the financing necessary. The biggest hurdle? They needed $16,000 to upgrade the field. Jennings spoke with an advisor who investigated the field and offered suggestions for renovations and upgrades. That price tag was far outside the team’s meager first-year budget.

So, Jennings went to Glenrock Mayor Doug Frank and the rest of the town council with a plan, even though he knew money was tight. If the team could raise $8,000, would the town match it?

The Glenrock Police Department and Parks and Recreation graciously offered to free some money from their budgets to help out, and the town found some more.

Then, the community stepped up. Really stepped up.

The team was able to raise their $8,000 match pretty quickly. Thus, the Knights were born. The Knights name came to be after a team vote and a little inspiration from the baseball movie, “The Natural” starring Robert Redford. That team was the New York Knights. Glenrock players deemed it worthy as their moniker.

The coaching staff this season is comprised of Jennings as head coach and four assistant coaches: Eric Suppes, Robert McDonald, Rob Bloem and Jim Williams. To start the season, Suppes and
McDonald will focus primarily on pitching, Bloem and Williams on fielding, and Jennings on hitting. Jennings cautions that the coaches will move around and adjust roles as situations arise, just like their players.

Newly named Knight Lane McDonald said he was thrilled that Glenrock finally has a team for his age level.

“I really like playing the game of baseball. I probably like playing second base the most since it gets a lot of action during the game,” McDonald said. “But I’m really just hoping we have fun this year and see what happens.”

Josh Burris played baseball back in Pennsylvania when he was younger but was unable to play last season, as Glenrock didn’t offer a team. He is looking forward to playing ball again.

“I’m hoping that our team will inspire more Glenrock kids to want to play baseball, to set something up for the future,” he said.

The Knights’ first game will be Sunday, May 7, against Gillette. The season stretches though mid- July. The divisonal playoffs, state tournaments and national tournament then stretches over the next three weeks before one team is scheduled to be crowned National Champion in Eugene, Oregon, on Aug. 7.

As the season approaches, the excitement for the new season isn’t limited just to the players “First and foremost, we want to keep the smiles on the players’ faces and the love of baseball strong,” Jennings said. “We work these kids hard, and we don’t expect them to be perfect, but we expect the effort to be there.

“At the end of practice, they’re tired, they’re worn out, but they’re smiling. Hopefully we can walk away with some life lessons and have some fun, too.”

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