Post 45 raising the bar for North Carolina American Legion teams

BY DON BEANE, News + Record Staff
Posted 8/16/19

What a week of baseball it was in the area. Fans from all over including Chatham County were in attendance to see some exciting action at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional.

At noon on Sunday …

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Post 45 raising the bar for North Carolina American Legion teams

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What a week of baseball it was in the area. Fans from all over including Chatham County were in attendance to see some exciting action at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional.

At noon on Sunday afternoon at McCrary Park in Asheboro, Randolph County was not the best team at the 2019 American Legion Mid-Atlantic Regional. That title was reserved for tourney favorite Vienna, Va.

By midnight, Randolph County had flipped the script. Post 45 won games 14 and 15 over Vienna to take the regional crown and punch its ticket to its third consecutive American Legion World Series. And now it’s becoming clear that Randolph County is doing what most fail at, and that’s to build a powerhouse at the American Legion level.

Don’t get me wrong. Formerly known as Asheboro back in the day for most of us, Post 45 has always been formidable in legion baseball, winning state titles in 1966, 1978 and 2008. Randolph County added a state title in 2017, but failed to do so in the past two seasons as Wilmington claimed those bragging rights. Post 45 did win the Southeast Regional crowns in 2017 and 2018, however, to go with the Mid-Atlantic title on Sunday, to advance to the World Series.

I can attest first hand to the plethora of Post 45 talent having faced Asheboro three times a summer season for three years. While myself and Siler City Post 93 played some close games in those years, we always came out on the short end. Some of that changed of course when Edd Marsh, Richard Golden and Earl Beal took over and rebuilt the program in Chatham County with the help of Chapel Hill and Lee County kids. But even then, Post 45 was a bear to beat.

If it were a smaller American black bear native to North Carolina then, now it’s like grabbing a hold of a full grown grizzly.

Randolph County, under the guidance of Ronnie Pugh, expects to win every game.

This season Post 45 was predicted to be down a bit with what is a young team that lost most of its key starters from the past two World Series teams.But once again, Pugh and his staff have pushed the right buttons and this team grew better and better as the season went on.

However the success can be traced back to more than just the winning attitude now and the coaching of Pugh, as great as its been.

The Asheboro Copperheads forming and joining the Coastal Plain League now 20 years ago in 1999 was beneficial to the entire community, including Post 45. In 2010, that helped McCrary Park receive an all important renovation. McCrary Park has always been nice, and I loved playing there, but it was nothing like it is now following the renovations, and a facility like that attracts players, fans, and officials looking for potential regional hosts.

Also related in this Randolph County build and a key figure behind the scenes had been Dennis Garcia, the sports editor at the Asheboro Courier-Tribune. I know Dennis would love to get a check for all the hours he’s invested and donated to the Post 45 program in coverage, as a coach for the Post 45 junior legion team which now has two teams, and the Asheboro Copperheads summer collegiate team as well. He could spend half the year on an island somewhere before coming back in the spring to prepare for legion season on that money.

But like others, Dennis does it for the love of his community and game. He also has been a central figure in getting players out from what is always a talented area of baseball players in Randolph County.

Pugh, who works incredibly hard on defense and just seems to make the right calls during games, some with just gut instinct and not by the ‘baseball playbook,’ is now an assistant coach at Catawba University. Talk about carrying some weight when recruiting players to suit up for Post 45.

Amazingly enough Randolph County did not get some of the Randleman kids this season, and a couple of those arms at the least would have made Post 45 even more formidable. But nonetheless, Post 45 still succeeded.

I did hear the talk of Randolph County hosting the regional giving Post 45 an advantage, a carry over from the Southeast Regional teams whining the previous two seasons. Is there some truth to that? Maybe. It’s certainly an advantage not to have driven nine or ten hours and to be able to sleep in your own bed. And let’s face it, Randolph County didn’t win the state when they had to travel to Cherryville. But neither did Cherryville.

The bottom line is you have to win in on the field and Vienna, Virginia, went into Sunday unbeaten and having played one less game than Randolph County. The deck of cards was stacked in their favor. So no excuses, simple as that, Post 45 just made the plays and got it done with resiliency and determination.

It’s going to be a fun time seeing an Area III Northern Division team back in the World Series. Of course its Post 45 once again, but hopefully their success will raise the bar for the other league teams, especially Eastern Randolph which annually features Chatham County players. In all reality, it has to, or Randolph County will continue to be the locomotive barreling down the tracks gaining more and more steam each season, with the other area teams falling further and further behind.


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