The Bill Miller Big Fish Tournament is living up to its name by bringing one of the biggest fish in the Legion sea to Kenai this year.
This year’s tournament, which uses wood bats and kicks off with six games in Kenai today, has three Outside teams, including Columbia (Tenn.) American Legion Post 19.
According to a Legion press release, Columbia won the Legion World Series in 2007 and just missed out on a berth the last two seasons.
Manager and team president Mickey McKeel said in the release that he has been managing for 12 years, and won seven state championships in that time.
The program is 84 years old and has produced professional ballplayers, such as All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves.
The two other Outside teams just finished up playing in the Todd Ryan Memorial in Wasilla. The Todd Ryan, Bill Miller and an upcoming tournament in Anchorage are part of the Alaska Airlines Tournament Tour.
In the final of the Todd Ryan tourney, Castroville (Texas) defeated Strongsville (Ohio) 7-6. Columbia was not in that tournament, but will be in the upcoming tournament in Anchorage.
Castroville is playing in all three tournaments on the tour, while Strongsville will leave the state after the Bill Miller tourney.
“Those three will be the biggest competition in this tournament,” Twins head coach Gary Oliver said.
Jerome Iltis said in a press release that Castroville has never traveled outside the state of Texas. Strongsville is in its third year as a program, but has done well in Northeast Ohio, with three district titles in four years.
The Post 20 Twins aren’t doing too shabby themselves this year. With a couple of league wins over the weekend, the Twins improved to 12-2 in the league and took over first place in the state.
There are two pools at the tournament. The Twins are in the pool with Eagle River and Columbia. The Twins play Eagle River at 4 p.m. and Columbia at 7 p.m. today. Both games are at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
The other pool is made up of Strongsville, Castroville and East.
The Twins program has always been designed to allow players to reach the next level, if they so choose. The competition in the Bill Miller is a big part of that.
“We kind of look forward to it,” Oliver said. “It gives us a good measuring stick to see where Alaska baseball is compared to the Lower 48.
“We usually play fairly competitive in these games and we look forward to the same this year.”
Oliver said area baseball fans not only have a chance to see some of the top Legion programs in the country, but also can keep the Twins from getting less crowd support than Outside teams.
“I heard two of the Outside teams are bringing 120 people between the two of them,” Oliver said. “It’d be nice to see the hometown fans support the Twins.”
The tournament will continue Wednesday and Thursday, with games to be determined by Tuesday’s pool play.
Bill Miller Big Fish Tournament
Castroville (Texas) vs. Strongsville (Ohio), 10 a.m. at Seymour Park
Eagle River vs. Colubia (Tenn.), Noon at Kenai Little League fields
Strongsville (Ohio) vs. East, 1 p.m. at Seymour Park
Twins vs. Eagle River, 4 p.m. at Seymour Park
East vs. Castroville (Texas), 5 p.m. at Kenai Little League fields
Columbia (Tenn.) vs. Twins, 7 p.m. at Seymour Park