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Mid-Atlantic’s best coming to Loudoun for American Legion tournament

Cameron Eck and the Leesburg Rangers are back in the American Legion Mid-Atlantic Region Baseball Tournament as the host team.—File Photo/Rick Wasser
The well-manicured diamond of Purcellville's Fireman's Field is about to become a stepping stone. Eight teams of ambitious young men from six states will soon descend upon Loudoun's iconic baseball grounds for the American Legion's Mid-Atlantic Baseball Tournament - and the shot at the World Series it offers.

With the one exception of the host team from Leesburg's Post 34, they'll all have won state championships to prove their mettle. They'll all really want to be in the Mid-Atlantic tourney, and they'll all really want to win it.

Leesburg resident Jim Grenier is in his third year as Baseball Chairman for the American Legion's Department of Virginia.

"Fireman's Field is an absolutely great location for something like this," Grenier said.

Grenier compared the level of baseball to be displayed in the regional tournament to high-level junior college or top-echelon Division III college.

"You're going to see some very good baseball. Most of these teams have six, seven guys already playing in college and six or seven more going to play in college."

Grenier pointed out that one of the primary goals of the American Legion is to provide community outreach programs which benefit an area's veterans and students. Having a regional baseball tourney held nearby is, he said, conducive to carrying out the Legion's mission.

"You're going to see the [Loudoun-based] posts come together at Fireman's Field," Grenier explained. "The Legionnaires around here are more into it this year, because they saw what sort of event they had here last year, and now they're really excited about it."

Last year's Mid-Atlantic tournament turned out pretty good for the home team, something that team's returning manager would like to duplicate.

Playing host

The Leesburg Rangers of Post 34 will be among the eight-team field in the Mid-Atlantic tourney as its host squad.

The Rangers played host for last year's Mid-Atlantic tournament, but they weren't the most hospitable. Leesburg dealt losses to New Castle (Del.) and eventual region champion Funkstown (Md.) before bowing out.

Rangers’ manager Dan Gershen hopes his 2016 edition, with several of the same players, can make at least the same amount of noise.

"You've got to have a good foundation, and we have that," said Gershen, himself a former Ranger player. "I want to see them continue to come together as a team. That was the biggest thing last year that got us some victories."

This summer's Post 34 roster is stocked with current and recently graduated ballplayers from Loudoun County, Loudoun Valley, Heritage and Woodgrove high schools, several of whom are preparing for their collegiate baseball careers.

Gershen pointed to Cameron Eck, Zack Lockhart and Christian McDowell as pitchers he'll rely on to keep opposition bats at bay.

Leadoff man Zack Costello is among Leesburg's speedsters, Gershen noted, setting the table for power bats like Brandon Keiper and Jack Howard. T.J. Holdredge will continue to be counted on either on the mound, in the infield or at the plate.

"We have finesse at the top and bottom and big sticks in the middle [of the order]," Gershen assessed.

More than the state's baseball chairman, Grenier has long served as the Rangers' de facto general manager. He hopes the obvious fun and potential for success encourages other Legion posts to sponsor baseball teams.

Recalling Greater Loudoun's shocking championship in the 2013 Babe Ruth World Series - a Babe Ruth team with many of the same players on Leesburg's current Legion squad - Grenier feels there's an advantage when Loudoun's players take Loudoun's field.

"I know that these kids locally, when they get on Fireman's Field, their level of play elevates," the longtime baseball administrator said. "I don't know what it is, but you get in there, you can isolate and you can focus, and everything's focused on baseball."

American Legion Mid-Atlantic Baseball Tournament

-Dates: Aug. 3-7
-Venue: Fireman's Field, Purcellville
-Teams: Eight (VA, MD, DE, NJ, NY, PA-East, PA-West, Host)
-Host: Leesburg Post 34
-Type: Double-elimination
-Winner gets: Spot in American Legion World Series

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