08/04/04 — Four Legion tournament teams try to rebound from defeat

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Four Legion tournament teams try to rebound from defeat

By David Williams
Published in Sports on August 4, 2004 1:56 PM

SHELBY - A fresh start.

When the North Carolina American Legion state baseball tournament begins today, Wayne County will be one of four teams who will be looking to bouce back from losses when they last took the diamond.

Laurinburg and Greensboro fell in their respective championships, while host Shelby lost to Pineville in the Area IV semifinals. Post 11 has had one week to get over two tough losses in a row to Garner in the Area One championship series.

Coach Brad Reaves knows it's time to put those two losses behind and focus on the present.

"This is the next season we wanted to get to," Reaves said. "We lost two early in the season, and we went on a long winning streak. We are hoping we can do that now. We are hoping this break has given us some rest, and we are back ready to play."

Reaves mentioned getting into a rhythm playing away from home as a key component to a successful tournament run.

"Coach (Doyle) Whitfield talked to the kids yesterday about the fact that we've got to stay in a routine," Reaves said. "Caldwell and Shelby are sleeping in their own beds. We are out of town. We've got to make this as much like Scarborough Field and Wayne County as we can."

Philip Cunningham will start today's game against Caldwell County. Garrett Davis will start Thursday's tilt.

Before beginning the double-elimination tournament, all eight teams congregated Tuesday night at Cleveland Community College for the pre-tournament banquet. Each team and coaching staff wore matching blue-collared, white knit shirts with an embroidered state tournament logo.

Former New York Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson was keynote speaker at the banquet, sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Richardson, who was on Sumter, South Carolina's American Legion state championship team in 1952, spoke about his career with the Bronx Bombers. The Manning S.C. native played in 30 consecutive World Series games and once held several series records, including the most hits in a five-game series (13).

Richardson also won five Gold Glove Awards before retiring at the age of 30.

His speech also focused on matters off the field as well, as he closed with three points; recognize the importance of how you live; live with a cheerful disposition and have in your lives a religion or philosophy that is real.

Shelby Mayor Ted Alexander and FCA representative Janie Jones spoke before Richardson, while N.C. American Legion baseball chairman Roy Waters introduced the teams following the keynote speech. Waters added that American Legion baseball in North Carolina was in the top 10 in the United States in total growth.

State tournament committee chairman Eddie Holbrook closed the banquet by recognizing the tournament committee, sponsors and host families.

"I might be prejudiced, but our committee is the best there has ever been in American Legion baseball," Shelby Post 82 coach Mike Grayson said. "We put on the Southeast Regional in 2002, and we've been told several times it was the very best. We've been talked about several times about hosting the national tournament.

"Anytime you have a tremendous group, you have tremendous leaders," Grayson added. "When you get a committee together, you try to get the best people you can get. That's exactly what they did."