American Legion baseball takes over Bobby Hayes Stadium for historic moment
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
PELHAM – With motorcycles and veterans aligned along the third base line, it didn’t feel like a baseball game was about to get under way at Pelham High School’s Bobby Haye’s Field, but that’s exactly what happened.
It was all part of a festive five-day baseball tournament put on by the American Legion to determine who would advance from the Southeast Regional Tournament to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, North Carolina.
Throughout the week, American Legion riders from local posts paraded into the stadium to added to the festivities, while the event not only brought great baseball to the area, but connected players with veterans in a celebratory way.
The opening ceremonies saw all of the participating teams gather on the field at Pelham High School and join together in celebrating veterans and others who fought for the country, while a fly over then created even more buzz.
Each day, the tournament found ways to celebrate others, including a first responders day, celebrating local recipients of the Medal of Honor, hosting a youth day for children wearing recreation jerseys and a special honor for Roy Brook.
Brook is known for attending different events in the area with his American flag. Poised with the flag, he stands there and simply represents America and its veterans without moving a muscle.
During the tournament, he was given a baseball signed by several within the organization to honor his selflessness.
In addition to honoring so many throughout the week, the baseball tournament itself celebrated some of the top players and teams in the Southeast.
Local team, Post 555 from Pelham, was one of eight teams competing in the event for a chance to advance to the World Series.
Pelham’s team, however, fell 4-3 to Covington, Georgia to open the tournament in the prime-time game on Wednesday night.
That sent them into the loser’s bracket where they then met Florence, South Carolina. Florence went on to shut out Pelham 10-0 before eventually advancing to the championship against Tupelo, Mississippi.
Florence ended up forcing a decisive second game after beating Tupelo 9-5 to stay alive, but it was Tupelo who picked up an 11-3 win to claim the regional title and a spot in the World Series.
Locally, several players had an impact for the Post 555 team after recently completing their senior years of high school.
Helena’s Andrew Fortson put together a 2-for-3 performance against Covington behind one triple and a single to drive home two runs and score one himself, which accounted for all of the team’s scoring.
Preston Daugherty, another Helena player, added the only other hit for the team in a tough 4-3 loss. Daugherty also added a walk, while Pelham’s Chase Christian and Helena’s Brock Sisson each had one walk as well.
Chelsea’s Parker Szush, who had a standout senior season for the Hornets, pitched all six innings of the game, giving up nine hits and four runs with two strikeouts. After giving up all four runs in the first two innings, Szush didn’t allow a run the rest of the way to keep the team in the game.
Post 555 scored one in the fourth and two in the sixth, but ultimately came up one run short of pulling off the comeback, which led to the loser’s bracket and a tough 10-0 game against Florence to end the tournament.
This year’s tournament marked a historic one not only for Pelham, but also the state as the first American Legion Southeast Regional Tournament to be hosted in Alabama.