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Now in College, Local Players Return to Diamond

Post 24 is one of several area American legion teams using college freshmen.

It’s a dilemma Jim Glassman weighs every spring when he’s trying to put together his Post 24 American Legion team. What should he do with the returning college freshman that played for his team the year before and remain eligible to play again as 19-year-olds with late birthdays?

It’s a delicate balance for the manager, now in his 31st year coaching “legion ball,” since most post-high school players seeking a spot on his team haven’t played organized baseball since the last time they suited up for Glassman the previous summer.

“It’s a payoff,” said Glassman. “If I bring these guys back, I look for some maturity and confidence with the young guys. For us it’s good and bad because it hinders some of the young guys … some young freshman or sophomore isn’t gonna make the team then.”

This year, Glassman’s team fields two such players — infielder Manny Aponte and outfielder/pitcher Basil Badley. And each is savoring what will likely be their last experience playing organized baseball.

Both Badley and Aponte graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 2008, playing for the Majors baseball team throughout. Neither, though, decided to try and continue their careers at the college level.

“I just kind of sat around, I wasn’t really involved with anything at college this year,” said Aponte, who just finished his freshman year at Winthrop. “It kind of got boring, so I decided, ‘Hey I’ll come back and try to play some ball,’ maybe play club baseball next year.”

<b>BADLEY CAME BACK</b> to play with friends he had gotten to know since moving to the Mount Vernon area from Hawaii two years in high school. Though he is older than most of his teammates this summer, Badley had played with many of them.

In fact, Glassman said Badley is the perfect example of what he’s looking for when he allows older players onto his team. The manager has noticed a more serious demeanor with Badley this season. Even after a year off from playing competitive baseball, Glassman thinks Badley has come back from his freshman year at James Madison University as a better pitcher than when he left.

“It’s laid back and it kills time during the summer,” said Badley of why he chose to play American Legion again. “I’ve been playing with some of these guys four years and sometimes people have known each other since Little League.”

He’s not alone, either. Last Saturday night as Post 24, which is made up of players from West Potomac, Mount Vernon, and Hayfield High Schools, took on Arlington’s Post 139, there were seven players including Badley and Aponte that had returned from their freshman year of college to come back to the American Legion diamond.

Glassman thinks there’s a void in the summer baseball landscape for players like Aponte and Badley. His idea is to have a league for 19-21 year-olds who aren’t playing college baseball and therefore not talented enough to play in the local wooden bat leagues.

Because ultimately, the reason Aponte, Badley, and the rest of the college-aged players taking part in American Legion this summer come back is a love of the game, a game they just don’t want to give up yet.

“They want to play good, decent baseball, and here in legion, we’ve got a good brand of baseball,” said Glassman.

<b>POST 24</b> lost Saturday night to Post 139, 9-3, and followed it up with a 12-11 loss to Post 130 Sunday to drop to 3-6 this summer. On Sunday, Post 24 trailed 12-1 before mounting a valiant comeback late. As has been the case all summer, in both games the team was done in by some careless, inopportune mistakes that resulted in runs for the opposing team.

Post 24 has now lost four games by one run this season. They play a doubleheader this Thursday and another game Friday before the American Legion All Star Game on July 4th at Waters Field in Vienna.