LOWVILLE — It’s been more than 15 years since an American Legion baseball team came out of Lowville, but that’s about to change this summer.
Lowville Post 162 is sponsoring a baseball team again, just as it did for many years prior to 2006, and the squad out of Lewis County is scheduled to begin District 5 play June 6, according to team manager Erik Gronowski.
“I was looking for an alternative (after working in Watertown Babe Ruth League Baseball) and figured Legion ball,” said Gronowski, a former baseball player in the 1990s for Jefferson Community College. “The closest place is Utica, they’ve got a pretty good established league down there, so we reached out to them and joined up with those guys.”
Gronowski said Post 162 paid for uniforms and league fees to get the team off the ground. The team features 14 players, broken up among several Lewis County communities. He said nine players are from Lowville, three from South Lewis and one each from Beaver River and Harrisville.
The league season is slated to run from June 6 to July 15, but Gronowski said high school sectionals could affect the schedule if Lowville is involved. But he’s satisfied with the number of players recruited for the first team.
“Fourteen is a good number, especially to get the kids playing time, so (I) don’t really want to go above that. But next year ... half the team is going to age-out so next year I’m probably going to ... do some tryouts, I’ll want to get the word out around the north country.”
The team will play its eight home games at Lowville Academy’s turf field or at South Lewis Central’s baseball field.
Its closest competition is Love Post in Boonville. It’s Junior League ball so players are ages 13-17.
Gronowski said three other adults are assisting the team, including Chris Villiere, the athletic director at South Lewis.
Gronowski is waiting for the schedule to be finalized as far as times and knows the team will have to jump in quickly with such a short season.
“That’s the thing that’s tough with this because this is fast and furious,” he said. “We start June 6, last game is July 15, and we play two or three games a week. And these guys don’t play weekends because a lot of these teams down there, they travel, and I told my kids, I’m not going to take your parents (and) have them spend more money all over the state.”
Gronowski credited the district for promoting the legion game. Lowville and Little Falls are additions to the district schedule this season. Gronowski said the district has also added a fundamental league for players 13-15 in an effort to stay relevant amid the alternatives for young players.
“American Legion baseball is dying because of the travel teams,” Gronowski said.
The north country once featured several American Legion squads, including Watertown Post 61, the Ogdensburg Maples and the Massena Federals.
Gronowski has been part of baseball since he was a youngster, growing up playing high school ball in Buffalo. After entering the U.S. Army and serving at Fort Drum, he enrolled in JCC. He played there in 1995-96 and said he was the first JCC player to hit a ball onto Route 81 from the school’s campus field — “or at least that’s what I was told,” he added.
He then played for SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica for two years and was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. His wife teaches at South Lewis.
Gronowski has been coaching baseball for 10 years and revitalizing Legion baseball in the area is his next quest.
“My goal is to try and get a kid out of every Lewis County school (on the team),” he said.
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