WATERVILLE — Although few teams ever have that many for a given game, American Legion Baseball teams can field rosters with as many as 18 players. When Waterville held Legion tryouts a couple weeks ago, coach Eli Fitzgerald realized he would be lucky to get half that.
“We had six that were able to show up, and probably two or three more that could make it that said they wanted to play,” Fitzgerald said.
Due to the low numbers, Waterville will not be fielding a Legion team this year. When the season begins next month, Zone 2 will play with eight teams. The plan is to have everyone play each of the other seven teams three times each, for a 21-game schedule.
Waterville players from Waterville will now have the option of playing for Post 51, which normally has players from Messalonskee and Lawrence high schools and plays its home games at Thomas College. Waterville Legion players from Winslow can play for South China Subway, which plays its home games at Colby College.
Zone 2 commissioner Dave Rollins pointed out that the towns of Waterville, Fairfield, and Oakland — which each have their own high schools with varsity and junior varsity teams — will now combine for one Legion team.
“I’m not criticizing,” Rollins said. “I’m just saying, ‘Where are we?’ I’m disappointed as a caretaker of the game.”
Fitzgerald coaches Waterville’s junior varsity team, and said there were a number of reasons for the low interest.
“A lot of them were working over the summer or had other sports they wanted to play,” he said. “Then some of the younger ones chose Babe Ruth over Legion.”
Fitzgerald added that there are a couple Waterville players he’s talked to who are planning to try out for Post 51, which finished third at the state tournament last summer.
“I’ll take anybody who shows up,” Post 51 coach Paul Jacobs said. “My average team is probably 10 or 11 kids (per game) for seven years. It’s not just Waterville. It’s everywhere, from what I’ve heard. I’d love to see a few of them play for us and help us. We’ve got some huge holes to fill.”
Two of the remaining Legion teams have changed names. Augusta will now be known as The Red Barn, and Amato’s of Rockland is now First National. There will also be a change to the playoff format. Over the previous two years, only the top four teams qualified for the Zone tournament.
There were some forfeits at the end of last season, and Madison ended up clinching a playoff spot by sweeping a doubleheader by forfeit against Augusta. So this year, all eight teams will qualify for some kind of postseason play. The top two teams will receive a bye to the Zone tournament, and the third through eighth seeds will play off to determine the other two teams in the four-team, double-elimination Zone tournament, which will begin July 19.
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243