Bombers

Post 9 Bombers’ Tucker Hagan looks to steal during action against Evansville Funkhouser on June 11 at Jack Hicks Field at Shifley Park.

Matt Freeman, manager of the Owensboro Post 9 American Legion team, is hopeful that the Bombers will play baseball in 2020.

Like all sports entities worldwide, American Legion Baseball is monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic to determine its next move.

“The national committee of American Legion Baseball will meet the first week of April in Indianapolis,” Freeman said. “We don’t start until the first of June, and as of right now we’ve been told it’s a go.

“At the moment, of course, we’re thinking of our communities and their challenges first. This is unprecedented — we’ve never faced anything of this magnitude.”

This year’s team, Freeman noted, figures to be particular strong, featuring a roster that includes veteran players such as Tucker Hagan, Nick Belcher, Tommy Clark and Daylin Crabtree.

“We’ll have a talented group of players,” Freeman said. “We’re excited about our possibilities and we hope to be able to play. We’ve made a lot of progress the past few years.

“Individuals like (president) Larry Vanover and (general manager) Scott Dotson, among others, have put together a plan to make American Legion baseball more viable and more successful in our community.”

And it’s made a big difference in a relatively short period of time, Freeman believes.

“We needed to rebuild the program and a lot of work has gone into that effort,” Freeman said. “We spoke with coaches, we spoke with kids and parents, we spoke with sponsors.

“Over time it has led to us getting more of the top-tier players in the city, county and region — we’re getting some kids we couldn’t get before.”

And, evaluating success has become more than one-dimensional.

“We’re looking at a lot of factors other than just wins and losses,” Freeman said. “We look at how we’ve done against traditional Legion programs such as Rockport (Ind.) and Newburgh (Ind.) — we’re finally able to compete with them, whereas before it was not so easy.”

In the process, the program has reconnected with many former Bombers who helped make Post 9 one of the state’s most tradition-rich programs in days gone by.

“This is a very important factor in all of this,” Freeman said. “We want those guys to be proud of the product we put on the field. We want their support.”

And, in the wake of the coronavirus and its consequences on athletics, Freeman confesses a soft spot in his heart for KHSAA spring sports athletes who, perhaps, will lose their entire senior seasons.

“It’s heartbreaking to see what’s going on around the world,” Freeman said, “and on a smaller scale, of course, you start thinking about how much hard work these current seniors have put in. They’re young and their coping mechanisms have a hard time dealing with this. It’s tough, and we need to help them through this emotionally.

“So if we have a team this summer, and I am very hopeful we will, I want to make it a two-month period that will become a very memorable time in their lives.”

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