Danny Wood didn’t want to see an end to American Legion baseball in front Royal.So when news hit that the team sponsored by the American Legion’s Giles B. Cook Post 53 would have to fold unless someone stepped forward to coach, Wood waited to see if there were any takers for the volunteer position. there weren’t, so the Stephens City resident took the job.
A year later, Wood and associate head coach Pat Lightle — another volunteer who lives in Winchester — have another issue to confront to keep the baseball program going. with Post 53′s decision to cut funding for the baseball team this season, Wood and Lightle are hoping to raise enough money to keep playing ball.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to do that,” Wood said. “We’re just going to go at it. We’ve got a couple ideas for fundraisers.”
Wood said the team need approximately $6,500 to operate for a full season. Preseason costs are the most pressing issue, as the team needs to cover things like a field rental deposit to continue playing home games at Bing Crosby Stadium, $500 for five dozen baseballs, another $500 to $600 for Amerlcan Legion-mandated insurance, purchasing hats for the players.
Post 53 had covered those expenses last year, but when the organization opted to restructure its donation program this year it made the decision to cut funding for baseball.Post 53 Adjutant Buster Ramos told Wood the team can still call on front Royal American Legion for some financial help.
“We told him they can still use the name and we would still support him to some degree,” Ramos said. “It’s just not going to be what it has been in the past.”
Wood is determined to keep the program going after helping keep it afloat by stepping in to manage last year when no one seemed interested in filling in for Post 53.
A 1972 graduate of Warren County High School, Wood grew up playing American Legion baseball in his hometown before going on to play collegiately at Manatee (Fla.) Junior College and Randolph-Macon College.
“I played Legion baseball back in the early 1970s for three years,” Wood said. “… I grew up in front Royal and played Legion ball, and I know how important it is.”
Wood soon recruited Lightle, a former collegiate head coach at Southwestern Michigan Junior College and Bristol University who also had stops at Eastern Kentucky as an assistant and Coastal Carolina as associate head coach. Lightle also has worked as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Like Wood, Lightle was willing to step in and donate his time to keep the team going.”It’s for the kids,” Lightle said. “I think front Royal has had a tradition of Legion teams for years and years. Danny and I had the resources and the time to help it continue.”
Wood is optimistic that the team will find a way to self-fund through a combination of player fees, gate admission, fundraisers and hopefully some sponsorship help.
“We’ll have 18 healthy young men to help us raise some money,” Wood said.The 18-player squad was made up largely of Warren County High School players last year, but also had players from Skyline, Handley, James Wood and Sherando on the roster. The team went 12-14 last season.
Lightle said he expects most of last year’s team to come back out this summer.
“Speaking to some of the kids, they don’t want to see it die,” Lightle said.
Wood won’t give up on the team as long as the players want to continue.
“This group of kids that we had was fantastic,” Wood said. “They played hard, they have been committed — all in all, it was a really great group of kids.
“… I couldn’t think of not coming back if they wanted to play.”