“Alabama does things right:” American Legion opening ceremony features patriotic displays from Post 555

Published 5:12 pm Thursday, August 3, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

PELHAM ­– Before the action got underway in the American Legion Mid-South Regional Tournament, American Legion Post 555 hosted a patriotic opening ceremony at Pelham High School on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Legionnaires from Post 555 welcomed players, coaches and families of the visiting baseball teams to Pelham with a ceremony that was a unique celebration of America and its national pastime.

“It’s important to show that American Legion baseball is more than just baseball,” Post 555 Baseball Director Kyle Phillips said. “It’s about connecting our veterans to our players. And what better way to do that than showing off what our veterans put their lives on the line for us to be patriotic and just love our country?”

The ceremony included a motorcycle parade by the Legion Riders around the Pelham baseball field, as well as an aircraft fly-over and a flag ceremony presenting the history of the American flag. Legionnaires from each post represented at the Regional Tournament escorted the teams onto the field for the proceedings.

The night was highlighted by a reenactment of the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima by Marine veterans.

For Legionnaires like Phillips, the opening ceremony is important because it reminds everyone involved of the sacrifices that members of the military have made to allow this tournament to happen.

“We really want to show that baseball is fun, but there’s a reason why we get to play this game,” Phillips said. “It’s these veterans who put their lives on the line for us to have these freedoms to enjoy everything we love, whether it’s baseball, going to the movies or just hanging out with friends, because of the sacrifices these men and women made, we are allowed to enjoy certain freedoms that we have.”

This is the third straight year that Pelham High School and Post 555 have hosted the Mid-South Regional Tournament. The tournament includes state champions from Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kansas as well as the host team, the “Triple Nickel” Matthew Blount Post 555 Shelby team.

Triple Nickel is comprised of current and former players under the age of 19 from Helena, Pelham, Shelby County and Thompson High School. Once the high school season wraps up in May, they take the field together to showcase the talent that Shelby County has on a statewide, and now national stage.

Phillips said that because of this, American Legion baseball is unlike anything else on the summer travel ball circuit.

“It’s very unique, all these guys they play against each other throughout the high school season, competing against each other to win a state championship,” Phillips said. “But now that they’re all one team, one common goal of representing the county.”

This tournament is even more special than the other ones that Post 555 has hosted because of how successful Triple Nickel has been this season.

Triple Nickel went undefeated in the regular season, posting a 25-0-1 record while beating teams from across the state as well as from Mississippi and Nevada. Their only two losses came in the state tournament to eventual state champion Post 70 from Troy.

Post 555 Legionnaires have supported their team all along the way to the regional tournament. They attend every game as well as assist the team and build relationships with the players.

“They’re there to cheer on the team, help out the team in any way, whether it’s taking tickets or just being a good mentor to the players,” Phillips said. “They’ve had multiple conversations with them, just telling them their whole life story and you really see the players grow out of that, learning from the past experiences that our veterans have gone through.”

The eight-team double-elimination tournament will be held from Aug. 2-6 at Pelham High School, and the winner will claim a spot in the historic American Legion World Series in Shelby, North Carolina later in August.

The World Series will once again be broadcasted on ESPN, which means that everyone will be giving their all to earn the opportunity to showcase their skills on national television.

Even if Post 555 falls short of their goal of winning the tournament, Phillips hopes that the tournament serves as a showcase of the great state of Alabama, how special Pelham and all of Shelby County are and of the patriotic values the American Legion seeks to preserve and pass on to the next generation of American citizens.

“Obviously we want Post 555 to win the whole thing and represent Shelby County in Shelby, North Carolina on ESPN,” Phillips said. “But, you know, it’s really just showing, Alabama does things right. I’m really hoping that other teams see that here in Alabama, we do things a little bit different. Again, we like to show off everything that the men and women have fought for that allow us to do this. And we hope they take a little piece of that back to their hometowns and hopefully, whenever they play a game, they continue playing, just doing little things such as just the national anthem before a game.

“So, we’re really hoping that every team, every player and every parent takes something back with them that they can bring to their communities as well.”