Local Legion team formed
By BRETT MARSHALL
By BRETT MARSHALL
Garden City will have an American Legion baseball team for the summer of 2014.
To be called the Garden City Elite Post No. 9, the team will compete at the AAA Legion level, and will be for players ages 17 to 19 years.
Lyle Befort, formerly an assistant baseball coach at Garden City High School, will coach the team and be assisted by Kirk Dechant.
"First, I called Lee Clanton (local baseball supporter) and he told me to call the Legion and see what they would think of sponsoring a Legion team here," Befort said in a recent interview. "They said they had been waiting for this for a long time."
Befort had coached the Finney County Blues Babe Ruth team the past couple of summers, which is sponsored by the Garden City Recreation Commission.
The decision to form the Legion team developed in late February and early March, Befort said. Discussions have been under way about where the Elite team will play, and while a decision has yet to be made, it will be either Clint Lightner Stadium, or Williams Stadium at Garden City Community College.
Last year, Befort entered his team in the American Legion postseason tournament, where they won the Zone tournament.
"The kids didn't even know how to celebrate it had been so long since a baseball team at that level had done so well," Befort said.
Befort said a 40 to 50-game schedule was being planned, with the team likely playing two doubleheaders during the week, and then competing in weekend tournaments out of town. The only exception will be playing in the Jim Clanton Memorial tournament in Garden City the last weekend of June.
The team is being funded by private donations through the American Legion, which makes it tax-deductible. Befort said he hopes to have regular games scheduled with Hays, Dodge City and Great Bend, while planning on tournaments in Pueblo, Colo., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Salina.
"I've always thought Legion is the upper deck of high school baseball," Befort said.
Befort, who has 16 players committed to playing, also will conduct tryouts for the final spots on the team when the spring high school baseball season is over.
Players who have committed to the summer schedule include Derek Cook, Addison DeHerrera, Daniel Flores, Ivan Gutierrez, Martin Terrazes, Ian Jones, Thomas Solorio, Daven Acker, Logan Dechant, Isaiah Rodriguez, Marcus Zapata, Jesse Ruiz, Jacob Rivas, Emilio Parr, Edgar Montoya and Mario Montoya. Lee Clanton will serve as the team's manager.