03/26/06 — Reaves begins preparation for fourth season as Legion coach

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Reaves begins preparation for fourth season as Legion coach

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 26, 2006 2:10 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Outside diversions have often forced American Legion baseball coaches to squeeze roughly three months of games into two-plus months.

A longer calendar school year, exams, graduation and the annual N.C. State Games coerce coaches into compiling tight schedules which afford little breaks. That's nothing new.

But playing 24 games in a 36-day period is certainly a challenge for high school players who deal with those distractions in late May and early June.

"Usually, exams and graduation do not really affect us, but getting out of school almost a month later has made than an issue," said fourth-year Wayne County Post 11 manager Brad Reaves. "Most coaches do not like to start before June. We did squeeze in a few games in May.

"The schedule really isn't that shorter, but we do have a shorter time to get them in this year."

Division play must be completed by July 1.

Several Area I East teams faced the dilemma of completing their division schedule a year ago due to rainouts. In a recent meeting involving Area I programs, Reaves said that if a team couldn't finish its conference schedule, that team would automatically get eliminated from the playoffs.

A 20-game division schedule leaves narrow room for non-conference competition. Post 11 will play Garner in a home-and-home series, and participate in a two-day tournament in Chapel Hill.

"We probably have the largest number of conference games in the state," said Reaves. "Two divisions would allow for a better non-conference schedule, but the divisions would need to be divided more equally."

The league experimented with North and South Division play in Reaves' first two seasons. But the South had perennial heavyweights Wayne County, Pitt County 39, New Bern and Snow Hill. The North had Wilson Post 13 and Rocky Mount Post 58.

The imbalance of teams caused complaints among each division and coaches even pondered keeping the same format last season. But the proposal met considerable resistance when some South coaches offered to switch spots with North teams.

The coaches did agree to change the semifinal round of the division playoffs to a best-of-5 series this season. The first-round series will still be a best-of-3 format, according to Reaves.

"I just hope rainouts do not become an issue," said Reaves, whose team finished 17-10 a year ago and lost to Wilson in the Area I East semifinals.

Reaves has scheduled a mandatory tryout-participant meeting for Apr. 30 at 3 p.m. in the Southern Wayne gymnasium. Interested players must attend, so Reaves and newly-appointed athletic officer Sam Sasser can cover the necessary paperwork issues. Sasser replaces Ken Plummer, who served as AO for three seasons and ran the program with precision.

"We will discuss what the coaching staff and American Legion expects from our athletes, and what they can expect from us," said Reaves.

An open, two-day tryout is scheduled for May 20-21 at Scarborough Field on the Mount Olive College campus. Reaves and his staff will run a pro workout the first day and conduct a controlled scrimmage the next day. Reaves realizes some teams might be involved in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which begin May 16.