DURANT - In less than a month, baseball will play an important role in how the community is perceived. The benchmark occasion is provided by Durant hosting its first American Legion State Tournament near the end of July at the Durant MultiSports Complex.
Following another first, the newly formed Larry Dyson Motors Durant AA American Legion Baseball team, will play its inaugural game Tuesday against the LDM Majors team. The Complex, having two American Legion teams and hosting the AA State Tournament are no coincidence.
American Legion Baseball Manager and Durant High School baseball coach Zach Crabtree, along with assistant Ryan Richardson saw an opportunity to bring it all together.
“At the Baseball Coaches Association meeting they had mentioned that there was no place to host the AA tournament. We put in a bid, and for a time, were the only ones to bid” said Crabtree. “Another bid came in later, but we brought the officials out and showed them the Complex, and won the bid.
“Ryan and I had talked last year about putting together a AA team so some of the younger players could get some more playing time and letting that feed into the Majors. The Majors team eats up a lot of your summer, and both of us had little ones at home. We saw an opportunity to hand over the Majors to Justin Bowen for his first head-coaching job, and be able to spend time with our families.”
As one opportunity begat another, thus became the genesis of AA American Legion baseball in Durant. The players can not be 17 prior to January 1, 2007, and the schedule is such that the players were able to stay and work with local high school summer teams.
The first practice will be 2 p.m. today, and there is a slight disadvantage to teams that play together much of the summer break.
“It doesn't give us much time to see how players would be able to fit in different roles, but that's one reason we've selected a lot of kids based on position,” said Crabtree. “Instead of going out and getting the best six shortstops around, we have about three middle infielders, three corner infielders, five outfielders, two catchers and then the pitchers.
“I think we've got some of the best underclassmen in this part of the state.”
Two Durant Lions, Max White and Spencer Stephens, are on the roster.
“I would have liked to have Travis Caraway helping us, but he had back surgery, so he's not going to be playing anything for a while.”
Silo is represented by Logan Oller, Trevor Bowen and Cody Stephens. In what may be a first for Durant American Legion, Victory Life Academy is represented with OF/RHP Jeremy Whitson. Roff has the highest representation with six players: Taylor Whitis, Dayne Parker, Aaron Cornell, Logan Reed, Blake Logan and Colton Lancaster. Aaron Chalk and Landon King of Caney also bolster the squad, rounded out with Tishomingo's Jacob Carter and Valliant's Jordan Mings.
White, Logan, Oller and Mings are likely to make up the four-man rotation with Whitson in a closer role, but all roster moves are subject to change.
“We really won't know until we see everybody in a game situation.”
With the amount of talent assembled, the players should have no trouble making the State Tournament a memorable one for the community. The community has a chance to make the tournament a memorable one for its visitors.
“We need a lot of help and volunteers,” said Crabtree. “We need people to volunteer food, time or money. Anything we can get will be appreciated. We have to supply each team with two meals a day. We're looking for people to cook, work gates, help clean up after games.
“We're looking for businesses, families or individuals to help sponsor. It can really be a great community event. We've never had a big tournament like this. It may lead to us one day hosting a Majors tournament.”
Those wishing to volunteer should call Mark Ellis of Larry Dyson Motors at 924-1418.