Lebanon Sports Buzz
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Red means ‘stop’. Yellow means ‘proceed with caution’. Green means ‘go’.

As our society slowly begins to emerge from the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears more and more likely that the return of local sports is imminent. But the first local sport to re-engage won’t be Lebanon County American Legion baseball, at least not in the form we are accustomed to.

The County Legion League’s 2020 summer season was effectively cancelled on April 13th, when the United States American Legion Baseball association terminated its national and state tournaments and restricted the use of its emblem-embossed patch on uniforms. Still, a slim glimmer of hope remains that some semblance of summer baseball for boys ages 15-19 will be played locally, closer to the end of the season.

Rob Lozenski is the interim president of the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League.

“You will not see any American Legion baseball in 2020,” said Lozenski. “You may see some teams playing games and not using the patch. But they shut the season down at the national and state levels. At this point, the summer is non-existent. It was determined to cancel the season way too early, in my opinion.

“All the coaches and those assocaited with American Legion baseball know how devastating this is for the boys,” continued Lozenski. “We symypathize with them. But American Legion baseball isn’t going anywhere. We want this to make us stronger, and we’re going to have American Legion baseball moving foward.”

Because of the Coronavirus crisis, American Legion baseball won’t be played in Lebanon County this summer, for just the second time in the 92-year history of the local circuit. The last time the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League missed a season was more than 70 years ago, from 1942-45 because of World War II.

Prior to its cancellation, the County Legion League’s season was slated to open in late May and run through the middle of July, when its champion was to represent the league at the Region Four American Legion tournament at Ephrata’s War Memorial Field.

“In the grand scheme of things, I understand why they made the decision they did,” said Lozenski. “A lot of teams play on school district facilities (ball fields). But to be honest, I think the biggest issue was the unknown elements of the Coronavirus. No one knew what it was going to be like now. In the ‘yellow’ phase, we could’ve had games without fans. But I understand that some states aren’t in the same shape we’re in.

“The majority of teams purchase their insurance through a company on the American Legion website,” Lozenski added. “But you do have the option to buy your own insurance. It really came from the national association revoking the patch or the use of their name for the 2020 season. But that doesn’t prevent five or six teams from a tri-county area from getting together and forming a league.”

The closing of the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League has affected eight local teams and more than 100 teenaged boys from Lebanon, Berks and Lancaster Counties. Campbelltown captured the league’s 2019 championship.

“We’re losing a lot,” said Lozenski, a 37-year-old resident of Muhlenberg. “Over the years, the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League has been like a bell curve. It gets really, really popular, then it falls off. If we don’t do anything, we could lose the momentum we had gained the last few years. The league has grown in terms of teams and number of players. Kids have become more interested in legion ball.

“The seniors are missing out on their last year of legion baseball, their last chance to wear that patch,” added Lozenski. “They’re missing out on some exposure. There’s a lot they’re missing out on. Part of me hopes the American Legion will grant them another year of eligibility.”

Under Governor Tom Wolf’s county-by-county plan to re-open Pennsylvania, Lebanon, Berks and Lancaster counties could realistically go ‘green’ near the end of June. If local players and baseball organizations could somehow navigate the insurance issue, local umpires could be retained and available baseball diamonds could be identified, there’s a minute chance that teams could play an abreviated schedule beginning sometime in July.

But please don’t hold your breath.

“There’s always a chance of that happening,” said Lozenski. “Some of the league’s local coaches, like (Richland’s) Lyle Krall and (Fredericksburg’s) Tim Schaeffer have asked, ‘What are the chances of starting our own league to play games for these boys?’ I don’t know if they could get enough kids. With us going into the green phase, the kids who don’t play fall sports could be playing in the fall.

“It (the yellow phase) doesn’t mean you can’t start now,” Lozenski continued. “The best-case scenario would be four weeks of games in the beginning of July. You’ve got to have someone who wants to spearheaded it. Maybe some of these boys can get some baseball in, if someone takes the bull by the horns.”

The benefits of local summer baseball are obvious. They are right in line with the benefits of scholastic sports overall.

“It’s an opportunity to get outside,” said Lozenski. “In this day and age, during the summer, kids are more into going to the pool or sitting around doing nothing. It gets them off the couch and doing something. It also gives coaches an opportunity to teach kids more than just baseball. They’re missing out on a year of being molded into young men. Just the camaraderie with their friends is important.

“If we would start our own league, it’s very difficult to throw everything together at the last minute,” Lozenski added. “I feel for these kids. I don’t even know what they’re going through.”

On April 9th, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association cancelled the remainder of the winter scholastic sports season and the entire spring scholastic sports season. Lebanon County is going on its third month without local sports.

“I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude. The sports world has just basically shut down,” said Lozenski. “(Before the COVID-19 crisis) We were in great shape. We had our schedule done and we were getting ready for the season. We were growing as a league. The last couple of years, the league has gotten stronger and stronger and stronger.

“We’ll probably start meeting in October to talk about next year,” concluded Lozenski. “It’ll be business as usual. We’re planning on having a new year, next year.”

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

Lebanon County American Legion League Past Champions  

2019- Campbelltown

 2018 – Richland

 2017 – Fredericksburg

2016 – Annville

2015 – Myerstown

2014 – Myerstown

2013 – Campbelltown

2012 – Campbelltown

2011 – Annville

2010 – Campbelltown
2009 — Fredericksburg
2008 — Fredericksburg
2007 — Richland
2006 — Richland
2005 — Richland
2004 — Annville
2003 — Fredericksburg
2002 — Richland
2001 — Fredericksburg
2000 — Fredericksburg
1999 — Fredericksburg
1998 — Palmyra
1997 — Fredericksburg
1996 — Fredericksburg
1995 — Fredericksburg
1994 — Fredericksburg
1993 — Fredericksburg*
1992 — Palmyra
1991 — Palmyra
1990 — Fredericksburg
1989 — Fredericksburg
1988 — Palmyra
1987 — Fredericksburg
1986 — Fredericksburg*
1985 — Myerstown
1984 — Richland
1983 — Lebanon
1982 — Lebanon
1981 — Fredericksburg*
1980 — Richland
1979 — Fredericksburg
1978 — Myerstown
1977 — Fredericksburg
1976 — Fredericksburg
1975 — Myerstown
1974 — Lebanon
1973 — Fredericksburg
1972 — Myerstown*
1971 — Myerstown*
1970 — Annville*
1969 — Annville*
1968 — Myerstown
1967 — Myerstown
1966 — Myerstown
1965 — Myerstown
1964 — Richland
1963 — Lebanon
1962 — Richland
1961 — Richland*
1960 — Not Contested
1959 — Fredericksburg
1958 — Fredericksburg
1957 — Fredericksburg
1956 — Lebanon
1955 — Myerstown
1954 — Jonestown*
1953 — Myerstown
1952 — Palmyra*
1951 — Palmyra
1950 — Palmyra
1949 — Annville
1948 — Myerstown*
1947 — Lebanon
1946 — Myerstown
1945 — Not Contested (World War II)
1944 — Not Contested (World War II)
1943 — Not Contested (World War II)
1942 — Not Contested (World War II)
1941 — Lebanon*
1940 — Myerstown
1939 — Myerstown
1938 — Myerstown*
1937 — Lebanon*
1936 — Lebanon
1935 — Annville
1934 — Annville
1933 — Myerstown
1932 — Lebanon*
1931 — Orioles*
1930 — Fifth Ward
1929 — Progressive
* Denotes regional champions
Note — The 1937 Lebanon squad was the only team from the county to win a state title. The 1981 Fredericksburg, the
1948 Myerstown and the 1938 Myerstown clubs were all state runners-up.

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