For the American Legion Post 62 baseball team, this will be a summer of change.
The roster has been shaken up due to graduation and injuries, but one thing will remain the same.
The team will represent the Western Slope when the state tournament begins.
The Bulldogs will host the state American Legion tournament from July 29 to Aug. 1. The host team receives an automatic bid.
But, manager Justin Folley said he expects the Bulldogs to prove that they not only belong, but can be mentioned with the league’s best.
“We’re excited,” he said. “Hopefully, we can make something of a stand, and show that the Western Slope has some quality players.”
Folley said hosting the tournament, which features the top four American Legion teams from the Front Range and Western Slope, is a step in the right direction for the Bulldogs.
“It’s good for our program,” he said. “We feel like we have a field worthy enough of the state tournament.”
Folley said with seven teams visiting Craig, restaurants and businesses should see a boost.
“It’s great for the community,” he said. “We might try and get advertisements out on the outfield fences.”
But, before the team can try and bring a state title to Moffat County, it will have to deal with the rest of the Western Slope.
At 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. today, the Bulldogs (0-0) will play Rangely (1-1), at Craig Middle School, 915 Yampa Ave.
Bubba Ivers will get the ball in game one, with Ivan Nielsen taking the mound in the nightcap.
This year’s team will differ from last summer’s with no incoming seniors on the roster.
“We are extremely young,” Folley said. “We have a few guys out because of injuries.
“We have a lot of guys who are going to be freshmen, and quite a few who are going to be sophomores.”
Although the team is comprised of underclassmen, it is not without experienced players.
Ivers, who will be a sophomore in the fall, started this spring for the varsity team and is entering his second summer of American Legion ball.
Nielsen and infielder Carlos Maldonado, who both played at the varsity level last spring, are entering their junior seasons.
“We have a decent amount of talent, but being young we don’t have experience,” Folley said. “So, this summer should be a learning experience.”
Because next year’s Moffat County High School baseball team is expected to be mostly underclassmen, Folley said the extra summer games should give his team needed seasoning.
“It’s phenomenal to have kids play in tournament like this,” he said. “Like when we went to districts last year. It helps out with the high school season.
“The kids know what to expect against some better quality teams.”