Thanks to a new American Legion rule allowing 19-year-olds to play, many of the faces on the Twins are the same this year.
Assistant coach John Butler said that bodes well due to the success of last year's team. Last year, the Twins won the District II crown and took the Wasilla Fourth of July Tournament, but were derailed at state due to injuries and players lost due to American Legion rules violations.
The 19-year-old players returning off of that team are third baseman Kyle Foster, second baseman Nick Weigle, catcher Kenneth Butler, pitcher Corey Grimm and catcher Ely Evanson, who will join the team in the middle of June after finishing up studies.
Outfielder Zack Hicks also returns from last year's team.
"We're going to depend on them for leadership, motivation and helping some of the younger guys," Butler said of the returnees. "A lot of them have been in the program for four years, so they have a good understanding of Legion baseball."
By the time state rolled around last year, the Twins were suffering from a lack of depth. With David and Eric Newby, last year's stars, unable to return this year due to commitments to their college teams, the Twins will need production for their young players.
Nick Weigle pauses for a moment to watch his teammates practice at the Coral Seymour Memorial Park Friday afternoon.
Photo by McNair Rivers
"We're not going to be able to replace the Newby boys," Butler said. "We don't have anybody with David's power.
"We're going to have to play more small ball this year."
Three players from Little League Senior League will join the Twins in utility player Brett Toering, utility player Jacob Madrid and pitcher Alex Johansen.
The Twins also will get an influx of talent from last year's junior varsity squad. Those players are pitcher and catcher Jeff Kennedy, pitcher Phil France, utility player Luke Meese, infielder Jeremy Hale, infielder Scott Foster, pitcher and infielder Travis Mercier and pitcher and outfielder Shane Dunn.
In addition, the Twins may be getting some players from Kodiak and Homer.
In addition to depth, Butler also wouldn't mind solidifying pitching. He said the talent is there to do that.
"Things have been looking good so far, but it's hard to tell until the players get out on the field," Butler said. "We have some players in some new positions, and you really can't see how they'll do until you get them in a game."
Due to that, Butler said the Twins may be susceptible to a slow start, especially because many other Legion teams are fresh off a high school season. Most Twins players do not play high school baseball.
Lance Coz, who is back for his 26th year as manager of the Twins, has not even had a chance to spend much time with the team.
Instead, Coz has been trying to keep the Twins afloat after American Legion Post #20 dropped their sponsorship of the Twins this year.
Butler and fellow assistant coach John Kennedy joke that Coz has been moved to the front office, but both know that his experience will be vital to molding this year's team.
"Lance always has a way to get these guys playing hard," Butler said. "He'll have these guys ready to play."
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