PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth Post 23’s Junior and Senior team tryouts held on Saturday at Wheelersburg High School’s baseball field were the end of a nearly three-month shutdown of organized sports across the nation and in Scioto County.
The 20-or-so now members of the Post 23 Senior team and those who later in the day tried out for the Junior team weren’t just stripped of a baseball season, but rather a season of memories, team bonding, and of course skill development.
With some concerns of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic residing in the Portsmouth area after just 15 confirmed cases in nearly three months, Saturday’s tryouts for a staple of summer sports in Scioto County indeed felt as if things are starting to return to “normal”.
Despite the Ohio American Legion State Tournament being cancelled a month ago in response to growing concerns of the virus, Post 23 general manager Matt Miller and Senior team coach Drew Lowe signified the importance of continuing Legion baseball in Scioto County during the summer of 2020.
“It’s great on the program. Four or five years ago when the program first got restarted, it was something that we wanted to have every summer,” Lowe said. “It’s something to provide for our kids in the area during the summer. Legion baseball has been in the Portsmouth area for a very long time.”
“Missing the spring season was a big deal, we wanted to do everything possible for the game of baseball to continue to grow,” Miller said. “To me, I think it’s important for us to play this summer and don’t lose kids baseball-wise that may not stick with it if they didn’t have the chance to play.”
Lowe and Jackson head baseball coach and former Portsmouth coach Josh McGraw were tasked to coach the Senior and Junior Post 23 teams this summer, respectively.
Following the two-and-a-half hour tryout on Saturday, Lowe and Miller stood unified in their belief of the importance of having a Legion baseball program this summer.
Both individuals can speak from experience of how the entire coronavirus pandemic affected their lives in sports, as well as the lives of their summer players.
Lowe, a pitcher at Shawnee State and 2017 Sciotoville East graduate, had already began his junior season for the Bears before the NAIA ultimately cancelled the remainder of their regular and postseason games and tournaments.
Miller, in addition to being Lowe’s high school coach, was preparing for his final season as the East varsity baseball coach when the OHSAA canceled all spring sports activities.
Now, nearly three months after the would-have-been start of spring practices, Lowe and Miller must get back into their coaching groove with players who may, well, be a little rusty.
“A little rusty to start, we kind of expected that. Kids not being able to play high school baseball this spring was rough on their part,” Lowe said. “We’re trying to do our part here to provide something this summer. It’s going to be repetition, that’s something we have to get across the next several weeks.”
“I thought overall it was a pretty good day,” Miller said. “Kids haven’t been working maybe as much with the high school season being cancelled. We thought it might be sloppy at times, but overall I was pleased with what we had out here today.”
Beginning on Saturday, June 13, Portsmouth Post 23’s Senior team will venture a 30-game schedule with tournaments in Ashland (Ky.), Hillsboro and Chillicothe sandwiched into a 37-day summer season.
Likewise, the Junior team will play in two tournaments with six doubleheaders scheduled — beginning also on June 13.
Goals of winning came up when asking Miller and Lowe in their hopes for baseball returning this summer, but instead they focused on how and what they can do to improve their players over the next month and change.
“Going forward, 30 games in 37 days — pitching is going to be very tough to start,” Lowe said. “Being able to get kids innings, at-bats, that’s my most important goal. Wins and losses, those show at the end of the day. Kids being able to play the game of baseball, that’s what we’re looking for.”
“Goal is always to win every game, but more importantly this summer, I think it’s getting back into that routine,” Miller said. “Getting kids at-bats, working on fundamentals, and having fun in the summer. We’re about having fun, doing things the right way, and working on their skill sets for them to get better.”
Rejoice: baseball is happening again in Scioto County at the youth level.
Now, we can only hope it and other sports are here to stay.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved