For the first time, Jefferson City will have two Senior Legion summer baseball teams.
In a combination of changing age rules and a high turnout of local players, the American Legion Post 5 Seniors baseball team will be joined by an Auxiliary Seniors team this summer.
“I think it’ll be fun, back when I played we had one team that went everywhere,” Post 5 Seniors Auxiliary assistant coach Jason Rackers said. “I think having two teams says a lot about the organization. We’re spreading out a little bit and there’s a lot of guys who want to play Legion ball.”
Helming the new team will be head coach Ryan Paschal and assistant coach Rackers, both local players who were part of the Post 5 Seniors team before heading off to continue their baseball careers in college.
“I grew up here in Jeff City and went to Blair Oaks and played Legion ball for three years,” Paschal said. “Playing Legion ball back in the day gave me a really good thought about coming out here and hopefully giving back to the same kids. Looking forward to helping out the younger generation.”
Paschal, a Blair Oaks graduate, played two seasons at Mineral Area College before transferring to Missouri Southern for his final two years as a relief pitcher.
Rackers, also a Blair Oaks graduate, played two seasons at Jefferson College as a starting pitcher, then transferred to Tennessee for one season before transferring again to Southeast Missouri State for his final two years of college ball.
“Me and my head coach Ryan Paschal played for these guys when we were in high school back in 2017 and they came asking if we wanted to coach and we were happy to tell them we were available,” Rackers said.
None of the coaches will get much time with their teams before the season kicks off Saturday, in fact the first time either team got together was for an exhibition game Sunday.
The teams are made up of players from all around Jefferson City, pulling from Blair Oaks, Helias, St. Elizabeth, South Callaway and Fatima for the Seniors.
“We have a good pool, a good area of players we can pull from,” Seniors coach Curt Vaughan said. “I think we’ve got six different high schools and we get good if not the best players from the high school teams. Really good arms, probably the one and two off of those six schools. We’re gonna get after it and we’ll start to find out this weekend.”
With a mix of players coming in, team camaraderie can be difficult to create early in the season.
“From years past, it seems like the teams that can quickly get over that ego from school and kind of mature as a player, just realize that everyone on this team deserves to be on this team, once they figure that out, they just start playing ball,” Vaughan said.
But that camaraderie will come as lineups, pitching rotations and roles are figured out through the summer as without practice beforehand, coaches are left to put together their team the best they can on the fly.
“We bonded pretty well for it being the first time together, I think we hit it off pretty good,” Paschal said of Sunday’s scrimmage. “… Whoever’s hitting the ball is going to be who’s in the lineup. Offense is key here and obviously we’ve got some guys who can throw the baseball and field the baseball, but you’ve gotta score runs to win. Whoever is hitting at the time is going to play and we’ll run with that.”
The teams schedules are mostly made up of travel tournaments, with few games scheduled in town, and don’t have set dates or times for any matchup far in advance, but the season will start Saturday as the teams head to Paducah, Ky.
“This first tournament will be a good one for us,” Vaughan said. “It’s probably our most competitive tournament of the summer and it’s just right out the gate.”