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Legion ready for season

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Post 114 under new management for first time since ?98

SIKESTON ? The Sikeston Senior American Legion Post 114 team enters the season with a deep squad of versatile athletes under the direction of first-

year coach Todd Baker.

Baker, a junior Legion assistant the past three years, replaced Charlie Dye, who stepped down after last season. Dye, who took over the program in ?98, guided the team to a 21-12 record and a district championship ? the first during his tenure ? in his swan-song season.

?I was more than happy to take it,? said Baker. ?These are a great group of kids and I?ve been around these boys since they were about 10 or 11-years old.?

Baker has brought a couple of longtime, respected baseball men, Mike DeWitt and Charlie Miller, into the program.

?I got those guys out of retirement to come out and work with these boys,? said Baker. ?They both love the game and have a vast amount of baseball knowledge, so I?d be a fool not to try to tap into that knowledge if I can. I just sit back and try to listen and learn.?

Post 114 fields a squad of 16 area players: seven from Sikeston, four from New Madrid, two from East Prairie and one each from Portageville, Dexter and Bernie.

Off Sikeston High School?s district champion are graduates J.R. Bizzell, Cullen DeHart, Ross Merideth, Matt Limbaugh and Eric Chappell and seniors-to-be Tyler Baker and Cody Black.

?These kids are winners, even going back to a state championship in Little League,? said Todd Baker. ?They?ve been winners all their lives, they know what it takes to win. Success breeds success.?

New Madrid is represented by Jordan Kimball, Thomas Higgerson, Andy Gantner and Colt Pruitt.

From East Prairie, also a high school district champion, comes Ben Walters and William O?Guin. Portageville?s Jordan Penn, Bernie?s Zach Dill and Dexter?s Drew Pixley round out the squad.

?The chemistry is there,? said Baker. ?They all get along well and they?ve all played together before.?

Everyone saw action in the season opener, a doubleheader split with De Soto.

?I made a promise to these boys that they?re all going to see a lot of action and they are,? said Baker.

Versatility may be a hallmark of this team. Most of the players have multi-

dimensional skills and can fill in at several positions.

?We feel pretty comfortable with the fact that we can move kids around and we don?t lose a whole lot,? said Baker. ?We have the ability to do a lot of things with these boys.?

The coaching triumvirate plans to bring the pitching staff along slowly during the long season of 55 games.

Each outing will be a doubleheader of nine and seven innings.

Said Baker, ?For the most part, everybody?s going to throw. Everybody?s going to work a little bit off the mound.?

Six teams comprise this area?s district: Sikeston, Cape Girardeau, Scott County, Jackson, Twin Rivers and Dunklin County.

Twin Rivers and Scott County present question marks as first-year ballclubs, while Dunklin County and Jackson are expected to field solid squads.

?But, when you talk about teams to look out for, you have to talk about Cape,? said Baker. ?Just off the top of my head, I?d say they?re going to be the frontrunners. I?ve heard they?ve got some junior college pitchers on their roster.

?But, you never know, until it?s all said and done.?

As for his team?s performance, Baker expects a strong season.

?We?re just trying to find ourselves right now,? he said. ?We want to progress, get better as the year goes along, go into district, win that, then move from there.

?We?re going to go out and have fun. We?re going to give it everything we?ve got and, hopefully, when the dust settles, we?ll have something to show for it at the end of the season.?

Obviously, the mere existence of the program and the team is owed to its benefactor, the American Legion, in this case, Post 114.

?They?ve been very generous to us,? said Baker. ?Without their support and help, it would be very tough to do.?

Sikeston?s next action is the Paragould (Ark.) Tournament on Friday and Saturday.

The home opener is a twinbill versus Twin Rivers on Friday, June 10, at 6 p.m. at VFW Memorial Stadium.