After a one-year hiatus, Janesville American Legion baseball is set to return in 2021.
Post 205 canceled its 2020 season due to COVID-19, and with the program’s co-administrators Bob Schenck and Scott Huffman resigning their posts earlier this year, the future of the storied program was in peril.
Fortunately, the Janesville Youth Baseball and Softball Association stepped up to the plate. JYBSA recently took over reins of the Legion program and hopes to continue building on a rich history that includes a state-record seven state AAA championships and the state’s only World Series appearance in 1989.
JYBSA president Doug Madsen said the move was made for several reasons.
“We feel like Janesville baseball is the standard bearer in the state, and Legion is a big part of that,” Madsen said. “There’s great tradition already there, and we wanted to take over before somebody else did.
“By taking over the Legion program, we feel like we can keep the competition away and keep kids that might want to go to a travel team and play in town to play for the Legion team.”
Post 205 has always played its home game at Riverside Park and hopes to continue to do so.
Schenck said that when he and Huffman were running the program, Legion leased the field from the city of Janesville. The lease is up, and the city is still deciding on who will maintain the field during the summer Legion season.
“I know that the city has been in contact with the school district to see if they are interested in leasing it,” Schenck said. “I don’t think they’ll do that, but you never know.
“I would assume JYBSA will get the lease and be able to take care of the field on their own. That’s the ideal situation.”
Beloit recently turned its Legion program over to the Beloit Youth Baseball program.
Madsen said no decision has been made yet on how many teams will be involved with the Legion program but would like to keep things status quo with U19 and U17 teams.
In recent years, several Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker players have chosen to play on summer traveling teams rather than on the Legion team. That has not only depleted the Legion roster but the talent level, as well.
Madsen hopes that trend changes.
“We know there are enough good players between the two schools to field a good Legion team each and every year,” Madsen said. “Parents are spending thousands of dollars to have their kids play on a traveling team. Our hope is that they want to play Legion instead knowing that they’ll have a chance to play on a good team at a fraction of the cost.
“This was a goodwill move by JYBSA, and one we were more than happy to make. Legion baseball has always been a big deal in this city, and we want to keep it that way.”