CONYERS - Summer time is here, which means it's the time of year when some of the best baseball players in the area join forces and compete for the Conyers Post 77 baseball team.
Post 77, which is led by manager Eddie Bagwell, will hit the field for the first time this season Thursday at home against the Grayson River Rats.
Bagwell said he feels his players have the talent to be another strong squad in a long line of successful legion teams.
"I don't know if we have any one strength, but I think we're going to be pretty balanced across the board. It's a very well-rounded team," Bagwell said. "We're not going to count on power hitting or an over-dominating pitcher to come out and win ball games. We're going to be good defensively and we're going to have a lot of versatile ball players.
"It's going to be an interesting year. I think the key to this year's team is that we have 17 guys that really want to play legion baseball. I don't think we'll have anybody taking it casually. They will be very serious about it. We've got a lot of competition."
Bagwell said he feels pitching and defense will help lead the team to wins this year.
"We're going into the season with about a 12-man pitching staff. Obviously Salem's Jake Dyer is going to be a key, along with Heritage's Kelvan Diaz. Patrick Jansen, a kid from Athens Academy, grew up in this area and played youth ball here until about two years ago. He'll be another good one for us. There's another pitching, Clint Ogle, from Athens Academy that we're excited about. Danny Blue put us on to him. Heritage's Chase Ware and Scott Korczyk give us depth and experience on the mound. Jake Harris is another strong kid that will pitch and play outfield for us. Bobby Coggins is a left-handed pitcher from Eastside. He'll help us out as a starter and in relief.
"We've got Chunk Smith and a kid from Prince Avenue named Buck Harris behind the plate. We're going to be very strong behind the plate with both guys. We're going to be strong up the middle with Heritage's Ryan Jubran and Kelvan Diaz. Buck Harris can also play shortstop. Heritage's Nick Matteen and Eastside's Jared Trust can do a different things for us. Heritage's Travis Tarleton may be one of the most underrated players in this area. Salem's Taylor Lamb really finished the year strong and we hope that will carry over into the season for us. Quint Hinton is another one of returning guys. He played over Southern Union last year. He's a solid hitter and plays in the outfield."
While this year's team may lack some of the power of Post 77 teams of the past, Bagwell feels they make up for it with fundamentals and finesse.
"I don't know if we have any bona fide guys that can knock it out at any given time, but we're going to have a good base-hitting team. We're going to go gap-to-gap a lot," he said. "This team is very capable. We've set the goal to win area, the area tournament and state. The good thing is they're buying into it. Salem and Heritage were both in the state playoffs this year, as were Athens Academy and Athens Christian. We've got some kids that know how to win. That's what I'm excited about. We've got a lot of baseball players that are fundamentally sound and they know how to win."
Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@ rockdalecitizen.com.
SideBar: At A Glance
· Team: American Legion Post 77
· Coach: Eddie Bagwell
· Last year: Finished third in state
· Key returners: Jake Dyer, Chunk Smith, Quint Hinton
· First game: Thursday at Henson-Carr Legion Field against Grayson River Rats, 6 p.m.