All-star players strut their baseball stuff at Legion Prospect Series

By John Sherman
Players line the baselines for the opening ceremony.

ROSEVILLE — American Legion baseball players from all corners of the state gathered in Roseville and Eagan on the first weekend of August to compete in the third-annual Legion Prospects Series.

Outfielder Coby Brownlee of Marshall leans against the dugout fence.
Outfielder Coby Brownlee of Marshall leans against the dugout fence.

The event provided competition as well as college exposure for 128 Minnesota Legion players. State Legion Baseball Director Randy Schaub traveled to the Twin Cities to support the event, which offered round-robin games at the University of Northwestern in Roseville and Goat Hill Field at Eagan High School.

Mike Perry, the past state Legion baseball director and a member of Legion Post 320 in Hopkins, said the boys in the Prospects Series play on four teams. He noted another four teams called Junior Select play separately in Eagan.

“This gives more players a chance to compete and gain college exposure,” said Bruce Barron, one of the founders of the Legion Prospects Series along with Perry, Charlie Becker and Omar Navarro.

Players at both sites were divided into four teams that each was scheduled to play three games — two on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Minnesota American Legion Baseball Director Randy Schaub, left, stands with Prospect Series Director Bruce Barron.

Some of the west suburban Legion players competing in the junior division of the series were Michael Simonson and Jack McCoy of Hopkins, Elijah Stewart and Colin McGie of Hopkins, Harrison Boughton of Armstrong and the Eden Prairie trio of Keagan Meadows, Dawson Miller and Nick Thompson.

Boughton was impressive defensively as the White team’s catcher in the first game of the tournament.

The Eden Prairie boys arrived home from the Central Plains Regional in Rapid City, S.D. at 2 a.m. Saturday and made it to Roseville before 10 a.m.

Director Charlie Becker, who is from Eden Prairie, said, “They made the commitment, and I knew they’d be here.”

Once the games began, it was a fun time for everyone involved. The players competed hard, scouts watched and fans packed the stands.

“It was a long trip back from South Dakota,” Eden Prairie catcher Miller said. “But I am happy to be here. I’ll be myself and make some new friends.”

Miller played on the Blue team and went against his Legion teammate, Thompson, who started at shortstop for the Gold team.

In a previous game, Edina Legion teammates Simonson and McCoy were on opposite sides with Simonson on the White team and McCoy on the Red team. McCoy and his teammates won that game 6-5.

“This is fun,” Simonson said after the game. “Meeting new teammates, playing in a nice complex here at Northwestern. I didn’t get a hit this game, but I was able to make a couple plays in the field. We have a lot of fans here, and they’re cheering loud. I was competing against Jack this game, but hoped that he would play well.”

On McCoy’s side of the field, he was on the Red team with one of his Legion rivals, Elijah Stewart from Hopkins.

“I like everything about the Prospects Series,” Stewart said. “This is a great environment for baseball. I have been playing baseball against Jack’s Edina team since we were 10 years old, and now he’s my teammate.”

Players lean against the dugout fence.
Players lean against the dugout fence.

There was one surprise for Stewart in Saturday morning’s game. He was given the starting assignment at first base. And he just happened to have his blue-colored trapper mitt in his equipment bag.

“This is the first time in a year and a half that I’ve been able to play first,” he said. “Thankfully, I remembered how.”

Hopkins fans have become accustomed to seeing Stewart in the outfield, where his five-tool skills are apparent in every game. He batted .468 in the American Legion Sub-State 4 playoffs and was just about the .450 mark for the season. His throwing arm from the outfield is a cannon.

Eden Prairie’s trio of Meadows, Miller and Thompson each played a big role in the Eagles’ second-place finish in the State Division I Legion Tournament. Meadows pitched and also got some base hits. Miller caught almost every inning and supplied a solid bat in the middle of the order. Thompson hit in the lead-off spot and was among EP’s leaders in hits and on-base percentage.

Simonson and McCoy led Edina Legion in hitting and were big RBI men for head coach Gene Larkin, as the Hornets made it to the finals of Sub-State 3 before losing 1-0 to state-bound Eden Prairie.

The Prospects Series included not only some of the state’s best players, but also some well-known coaches. Heading the Red team was Southwest Christian High coach Rob Wassenaar, the winning pitcher for Edina in the 1983 Legion World Series title game. Todd Jahnke, the former Hopkins Legion coach and now coaching for USA Baseball, headed the White team. Osseo Legion coach Ben Johnson, who is also head coach at Dakota Wesleyan University, was in charge of the Blue squad.