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Overlapping teams highlight busy BE youth baseball

By Staff | Jul 17, 2016

In the heart of the summer, the Blue Earth Pirates are storming toward what they hope is yet another run at a state title.

But baseball in Blue Earth goes well beyond the Pirates. From first-graders to aspiring Pirates themselves, the town is littered with summer competition and, like its softball counterparts, has players out on the diamond so often that intraleague teams are overlapping rosters and proudly so.

Kids are simply looking to get as much baseball as they possibly can, according to Steve Sonnicksen, coach of Winnebago-Blue Earth’s American Legion team.

“You’ve got your Legion team, the VFW?team, your?Junior Pirates,”?he said, “and there’s multiple leagues they play in.”

Sonnicksen’s own roster, sponsored by Legion posts in Blue Earth and Winnebago and comprised of 17 players, many of whom also played for Blue Earth Area High School, is just one piece of the expansive baseball puzzle in town.

Blue Earth’s VFW team competes during Giant Days.

“The players have to go to Blue Earth or be in the area,” Sonnicksen said, “but players overlap between the Legion and the VFW and even the Pirates.”

The examples are not few and far between. Alan Davids, Kaylan Legred, Logan Jahnke and Zac Schonrock all current or recent BEA?baseball players have a hand in Sonnicksen’s Legion club but also dedicate time to the Pirates, for whom Steve’s son Trent also plays regularly. Their eligibility does not always expire immediately after graduating high school, either.

“Even though you’ve graduated,” Sonnicksen said, “if your birthday is after January 1, you’re eligible to play, so usually I?have at least one come back that’s already graduated.”

And, of course, the high school standouts are just a few of Blue Earth’s baseball busybodies.

“Then you’ve got your Junior Pirates,”?Sonnicksen said, “and all the teams that are under that.”

Under the direction of Brent Legred, president of the Blue Earth Area Youth Baseball Association, those additional teams bring together players from just about any age group, ranging from beginning youngsters to traveling high-schoolers for games against Mankato, New?Ulm, Sleepy Eye, Lake Crystal and plenty more.

“Brent does a league with ninth- and 10th-graders who are also on the VFW?roster,”?Sonnicksen said, “and there are several teams in what’s called an I-90 League, which goes to its own tournaments.”

The I-90 teams, designated for “all kids in the Blue Earth Area to learn and develop the fundamentals of baseball,”?face competition from Jackson, Fairmont, Springfield and Northrop among other areas. And as is the case with the other teams in town, it represents just a fraction of Blue Earth’s overall baseball ensemble.

Also in action are teams from a Twilight League, a coach-pitched group for girls and boys in first through third grade, and as many as six different traveling teams outside of the VFW roster. They include 9U, 10U, 11U, 12U, 13U and 14/15U classifications as well as various invitationals open to different age groups.

“There’s definitely plenty of opportunities to play the game,”?Sonnicksen said.

Practices are not always easy to come by during such a rampant schedule of games across the various leagues, but the plug-and-play approach of most of Blue Earth’s summer competition, like that of many other towns, emphasizes what matters most:?Letting the kids play.

And whether it’s on the VFW squad, one of the younger I-90 teams or his own Legion club, which traveled to Springfield on Friday to take on the defending Single-A champions, the coaches and players alike cannot get enough of baseball.

“They just love the game. It’s fun.”