The state American Legion baseball tournament will be smaller by four teams this summer.
Because of a declining number of Legion posts sponsoring teams, there will be eight teams in the double-elimination state tournament. Until this year, there were 12 teams which qualified.
This comes after the number of Legion districts in the state was reduced to eight.
The drop-off in Legion participation is especially pronounced around larger cities. Last year, two districts eligible to send teams to the state tournament — from the Columbus area and Cincinnati area — did not send anyone.
The Lancaster Eagle-Gazette quoted Ohio American Legion baseball director Gerald A. White as saying that a reduction in the number of teams and a “need for fiscal responsibility” are the biggest reasons for the smaller state tournament.
White told the Eagle-Gazette that “Legion posts are experiencing a downturn in overall revenue.”
There are 58 American Legion baseball teams in Ohio in eight districts.
Legion posts in Lima, Ottawa, Findlay and Napoleon will field teams this summer. Others, which have had teams in the past, like Van Wert and St. Marys, won’t have teams.
Lima’s path to the state tournament goes through its district tournament, which will now include teams from Piqua, Sidney and Troy this summer.
Lima Post 96 finished third in last season’s state tournament, a destination it has reached for most of the last 10 years.
The decline across the state in Legion teams mirrors a trend toward declining membership in the American Legion in particular and social organizations in general.
A New York Times story earlier this year said that total membership in the American Legion was down 11 percent in 2012 from 2000 and the number of operating Legion posts dropped to 13,800 from 14,700 in that same time period.
Also, Legion baseball has more competition now than ever before to try to attract athletes.
Many top players choose traveling teams over Legion teams and sports like football, basketball and soccer have become all-year activities. Baseball is no longer the unquestioned national past-time except in dreamy remembrances about the good old days.
But, at least in some smaller places, interest in Legion baseball has come back. For example, Sidney Post 217 reinstated its baseball program in 2011 after it had been shut down since 2008.
And, even though it will be in a reduced format, the state Legion tournament is scheduled to be in Lancaster for the next five years.
A few other items:
— Ohio State linebacker recruit Mike Mitchell, from Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian High School, showed an impressive combination of speed and strength in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state track meet earlier this month.
The 6-foot, 4-inch, 225-pound Mitchell won the shot put with a throw of 52 feet, 4 inches and was third in the 100-meter dash in 10.95 seconds.
— Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy blogged about St. Marys’ Galen Cisco and his grandson, Drew Cisco, who pitches for the Dayton Dragons earlier this week.
Switching sports at the bottom of the blog, McCoy had this interesting quote from recently retired Kettering Alter boys basketball coach Joe Petrocelli, who is second all-time in wins among coaches in Ohio high school boys basketball:
“I’ll tell you, I’d trade all 831 of those wins if I could have played one game at shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds,” Petrocelli said.
— Ohio State has announced it will play Iowa in its homecoming game on Oct. 19.
For whatever it’s worth, OSU is 66-19-5 in its homecoming games overall. But it has lost three homecoming matchups since 2000 — Penn State in 2008, Wisconsin in 2001 and Minnesota the year before that.