LEXINGTON – An Elwood-Eustis Legion Baseball team returned to the field in Elwood this season, and despite coming away with just one win on the season, the program is looking to continue with plenty of motivation in the future.
Historically, baseball held a special place in the hearts of many in the Elwood-Eustis area. A lack of enrollment forced the program to close nearly a decade ago, but the small ember of baseball culture in the area was stoked into a flame with the help of a few experienced and knowledgeable volunteers for the coaching staff.
The lack of a legion team left a small generation of kids with little experience in a higher level of baseball. Bulls head coach Keith Henggeler, along with assistants Ben Martin and Charley Corkern were up to the task of teaching a new team.
“We saw a lot of growth in the season,” Coach Henggeler said about his team’s progress from the beginning of the season. “The first bit of growth was how they bought in to what we were trying to teach them.”
Henggeler described his team’s beginning as a ‘start-from-scratch’ program in a lot of ways, with many of the players having never played baseball and were unaware of the technical aspects of the game. Their first goal was to make sure the boys knew how to play safe.
“Half the team could barely throw a baseball our first day,” Henggeler said with a smirk. “We started with teaching them how to throw properly and safely. Then, step by step, they applied every tool we gave them.”
The team held their heads high through most of the season, despite long runs of losses. The team did see a small dip in their morale midway through the season, but with the help of the parents, the coaches were able to bring them out of it in short order.
The end of the season, a tough loss in the district tournament to Ravenna, was simultaneously the end of their first season and the beginning of their second, according to Henggeler.
“They’re motivated to go into the next season,” said Henggeler. “They don’t want to stop and just show up next April, they want to work in the offseason and be a step ahead next year.”
There are some changes planned for the next season, according to Henggeler.
“We’re going to embrace the ‘Hi-line’ brand when we take the field next year,” Henggeler said of the name change. “Our look and colors may not reflect exactly the same as the school’s Hi-line image, but we’ll be leaning more toward the same idea.”
In addition to a name change, an image change is planned with the help of Pinnacle Bank in Elwood. Jenna Roberts, Market President of Pinnacle Bank in Elwood confirmed in a phone interview of Pinnacle Bank’s decision to provide new uniforms for the Bulls in the 2020 season.
“We just wanted to help out the community,” Roberts began. “We haven’t had a Legion Baseball team in a while and we really want to be behind that.”
When asked what inspired their sponsorship for the uniforms, Roberts said, “We feel there’s a lot of potential in the team. We’re proud to be a part of the community and we want to help the kids.”
Besides the name change and new uniforms, the building of the Hi-Line Bulls Legion program will be a long term project. Henggeler talked about his hopes for some of those improvements outside of the game itself.
“The field and facilities could use some improvements,” Henggeler said of more plans in the future. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about that because it’s a big commitment. Some things need to be done, but they won’t happen overnight.”
Some of the things the coaches hope to see in the future include a grass infield to help cut down on dust and mud, some touching-up of the spectator seating and a public address system to add to the atmosphere of the games.
The Hi-line Bulls will return next year, continuing the same management and will lose no players to aging out of the program.