BY KEN MORSE
A Naugatuck institution has come to an end this summer with the closing of the Post 17 American Legion baseball team. It has been a sign of the times in recent seasons with the dwindling number of teams year after year that has even affected the number of zones that teams are divided into.
“I feel terrible that this has happened,” said Post 17 general manager Paul D’Agnone. “We just didn’t have enough kids. I thought we had pretty good numbers when they closed the league two years ago and they had the hybrid league that included all the Legion teams.”
American Legion baseball grinded to a halt two years ago when the pandemic forced the cancelation of the season. That marked the first time in recent memory that
Naugatuck went without a Post 17 baseball team in a program that won its first state title all the way back in 1946.
“We had a couple of kids who were injured, some wanted to work before going to college, a few others that wanted to play AAU and a couple of more that wanted to focus on getting ready for the high school football season,” added D’Agnone.
“This doesn’t close the door on next season. It definitely isn’t over as a program. We are going to try and get back at it in the fall with some of the baseball guys from other towns that are in our territory.”
“Post 17 is very supportive of us and John DeBisschop is head of the baseball end of it but it just comes down to having enough kids to field a team.”
All in all, Post 17 had won six state championships with the most recent being in 2001. The final game of last season was a 2-1, extra inning loss to Middletown on Aug. 2 at Palmer Field. Naugy ended the season at 9-11.
For Post 17 head coach James Duda, along with assistant coaches Mike D’Agnone and Brian Evon, it created a sturdy foundation that helped first-year head coach Joe Iannotti guide the Naugy High team to a 15-5 regular season this spring.
“It’s a shame to see it come down to this,” said Iannotti. “I played Legion ball and it’s just something that you felt would go on and was part of the rebuilding process for the high school team.
“Only time will tell how this will affect the high school team. A lot of kids are playing AAU ball but with different teams and you lose a little bit of that camaraderie.”
The downward trend in Legion baseball, however, has been an ongoing battle with prominent teams from Waterbury, Oakville, Oxford, Southington and Cheshire folding over the past few seasons.
That forced a realignment of the zones last year, closing zones 5, 7 and 8 and sending Naugatuck from Zone 5 into Zone 1. There is hope that this will be only a brief interruption in play and next year they can resume operation, but that is contingent on having enough players to field a competitive roster.
BY KEN MORSE