Eastern Randolph Post 81 pitcher Samuel Asbill throws to a Foothills batter last year. This year, Asbill is on the Randolph County Post 45 roster. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
RAMSEUR – There’s no American Legion baseball season for Eastern Randolph Post 81 this year, but planning for the future is being emphasized.
Low player availability surfaced last year. Without a clear remedy for that, organizers opted to focus on younger players who might help revive the program.
“We didn’t want to field a team with 11 guys and then not be able to play some nights,” said Nate Cockman, who was in his first season as head coach of the team last year. “We didn’t want to get a bad rap with that.”
So after a 2022 season that included on-field success but other struggles, Post 81 has taken a pause on the American Legion level.
“We decided we just weren’t going to be able to field a team,” Cockman said. “We didn’t want to be back in that situation again. It’s a tough one to swallow right now, but this is best for the long term.”
Instead, the Legion post is sponsoring a team in a combined Pony/Colt league. These are players ages 13-16. The Post 81 entry has 16 players in a league based out of Chatham County. Games in the five-team league are held Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at Chatham Central.
Last year, Post 81 held an 18-9 record in games played, though two of those were overturned based on a player eligibility issue to give it a 16-11 mark (prior to the forfeited Area 3 semifinal series because of a lack of players).
In April, a meeting to assess player interest revealed up to nine players who could be committed to play the full season, with a few others falling into a part-time category.
Generally, Post 81 draws high school players attending Eastern Randolph, Providence Grove and Faith Christian with some assistance from Southern Alamance and Chatham County players. No Alamance County players signed up to play this year.
Complicating matters was that Chatham County Post 93 returned to American Legion baseball to field a team and is based at Jordan-Matthews High School.
The Pony/Colt team, which won four of its first five games, is made up of players who could rise into future Post 81 players. Cockman said participating in the league in Chatham County seemed like a better option than trying to field a Junior American Legion team.
“I didn’t want it to put them in that situation where they wouldn’t have success,” he said. “I want to give our guys a fair opportunity. This is a good way to introduce them.”
Unless there’s widespread interest next year in the upper grades, Post 81 might choose the Junior American Legion route for 2024, Cockman said, calling it “almost a rebuild.”
Cockman is a coach at Southeastern Randolph Middle School in Ramseur.
“We’re trying to start young and work our way back through,” he said. “This is the best situation for now. We have full intention of bringing back Post 81.”