26 years in baseball, and Legion commissioner Keith Melick has seen it all.
Legion commissioner Keith Melick had a lot on his plate at Sportsfield Monday during the Diamond Jaxx 9-8 win over Geiger Ready Mix. He was filling in for his scorekeeper who was running late, cuing up the between-inning music, and making arrangements for an 86-year old Legion alum to play in the league's all-star alumni game July 4. All that while enjoying a monster nacho and chatting with a reporter. But there's no stress, just sweat from the heat, and some baseball. You get the feeling that Melick, a baseball lifer, wouldn't want to spend summer nights any other way.
LVT: What about this all-star game?
KM: It's on the Fourth of July here at Sportsfield and starts at noon. We'll have the current all-stars verses alumni. Most alumni played recently, but we'll have college-age all the way to 86-and-a-half years old with Hersch (Chapman, owner of Lavery's downtown).
LVT: There are only three Legion teams this year. Why the low turnout?
KM: One reason is there's a new league this year with younger high school kids, and those kids would normally play Legion but now they're waiting. You also have the cost, which is around $200 a kid. We hope to have maybe seven teams next year. The two years before this we had five teams. Even though there's not as many teams this year, these guys will still face lots of different teams because of tournaments and we'll bring in other legion teams from outside the area.
LVT: You've been around baseball a long time (Melick is in his 26th year as an umpire). Do the players seem better now or then?
KM: There's more talent now. We've always gotten college and occassionally pro scouts out here, usually when we host tournaments. There's a lot of young players working on stuff for the next high school season. The fastest pitchers will throw up to the mid-80s, and every pitcher has developed a couple secondary pitches, like a slider and curveball.
LVT: You've been commissioner for eight years now and umpiring for 26 years.
KM: It's a lot of fun. We stay busy. My wife hates it when summer rolls around (laughs). I do this and then umpire for high school, junior college, and am starting Big 12 next year.
LVT: Will either of these teams do well in the tournaments at the end of the season?
KM: Diamond Jaxx is a projected state team. They only lost one guy last year and they play together. Both of these teams will gel and get better as the year goes on. It's a fun thing to watch.
Legion baseball plays twice a week, with games usually on Monday and Thursday/Friday at Sportsfield Park.