Gas prices are the latest obstacle for Maine’s shrinking number of American Legion baseball teams


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American Legion baseball in Maine has faced numerous challenges since the glory days of the early 2000s, when as many as 48 teams from around the state supplemented the high school season and one — Nova Seafood of Portland — captured a national championship in 2004.

Now, other baseball opportunities such as out-of-state travel teams and wooden-bat leagues have flourished in some areas, while lacrosse has emerged as a strong spring alternative to high school baseball and thinned the pool of athletes participating in what has been known as America’s pastime.

The time demands on teenage baseball players from their other sports and activities also have increased exponentially, as has the need for many to work during the summer to earn money for college.

There’s also the old-fashioned notion of trying to squeeze in a family vacation during the five weeks available for the American Legion regular season, which this year began Tuesday and will conclude July 20 in order to provide time to hold a state tournament to send a representative to the Northeast Regional tournament that begins Aug. 3 in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

But the latest obstacles for the shrinking number of American Legion teams in the state include more recent economic factors such as inflation and record-high gas prices. One Senior Legion team had planned a trip to Connecticut this summer, only to cancel because of the cost.

“The amount of money it was going to cost was outrageous,” Bangor High School and Senior Legion coach Dave Morris said.

This follows COVID-19, which caused the cancellation of the 2020 season for many sports, and from which many young athletes have not yet returned to competition.

“Legion is just such a short season now,” said Morris, part of a coaches’ council that is organizing this summer’s Legion schedule. “It used to go into those early weeks of August where some kids would be late for preseason football, but now the way they’ve crunched it, it makes it a little more challenging, but we’re optimistic and hopefully things will go well.”

This summer’s American Legion baseball program has 16 Senior Legion teams for players ages 17 to 19 and 12 Junior Legion teams for players 13 to 16.


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