The boys of summer are officially back.
Thursday evening at Perkins High School, veteran baseball coach Ray Neill was bantering out his usual chatty instructions. However, for the first time in four years Neill wasn't out there with his Pirates preparing for a regional tournament game, but instead was directing traffic on the diamond at the first official practice for the Sandusky American Legion Post 83 baseball team.
Post 83's first game will be Monday night at Fremont with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.
Last summer, Post 83 made history by winning the first state championship within a 60-mile radius of Sandusky and went on to the Great Lakes Regional and took third in the 8-team field, finishing two wins shy of the American Legion World Series.
"I think we did a little bit better than maybe we expected," said soon-to-be Danbury graduate and expected Post 83 staff ace Michael Hamann. "We just handled ourselves really well and its an experience we all want to go through again."
Hamann, who is already heading to the University of Toledo next school year on a full baseball scholarship, has plenty of help coming back for another shot at a state tournament run as Post 83 returns 14-of-18 players from last season's magical season.
But to construct such an impressive roster, Neill has forced himself to look beyond stats.
"There's a talent, and then there is a passion and an approach to the game that I'm looking for," Neill said. "It's talent, but it's not all talent. When you mix different kids from different schools, you need to have good chemistry players too."
With only three practices to prepare for 22 regular season games and five tournaments scheduled in a 60-day window, it was interesting to note that the first drill the defending state champions worked on was the simple art of picking off a runner and executing a rundown to perfection.
Summer is just about here. And so too is one of the finest collection of high school and college baseball players the area has to offer...and I can't wait to 'rundown' to Perkins High School as much as I can to watch them pick off a runner or two in the dog days of June and July.