Gilroy – Chalk it up as a learning experience. For the members of the Gilroy Heat baseball team, this summer’s American Legion season has not been an easy one.
Playing against older and more experienced ball clubs has forced the Heat to learn quickly from their mistakes. At 1-7, Gilroy is in sixth place in an eight-team league, with only an outside shot at qualifying for the playoffs. Coached by Clint Wheeler, head baseball coach at Gilroy High, the Heat have eight games remaining on the schedule.
Familiar faces on the Heat include Peter Mickartz, Gilroy High’s team MVP this past season and an incoming freshman at Chico State; Steve Miller, a 2004 GHS graduate who will play for San Jose City College this year; and Ben Hemeon, also a 2004 grad who suits up for West Valley College in the fall. Hemeon hit a game-winning grand slam in the Heat’s only win of the season, a 9-5 victory over Los Altos.
The Gilroy Wave, the city’s ‘B’ league entrant in American Legion, has marched out to a 4-7 record and like the Heat has to turn things around to make the playoffs. Composed of younger athletes, mostly high school freshman and sophomores, the team’s main goal is to develop players and to expose them to a more competitive level of baseball. The Wave is coached by GHS junior varsity coach and varsity assistant Alan Andersen.
The Heat and the Wave play in Post 217 of the American Legion League, which also includes teams from Half Moon Bay, Redwood City, Los Altos, San Bruno, San Jose, Palo Alto, Pacifica and San Mateo. Players in the ‘A’ league range from high school sophomores to second-year college students. American Legion Baseball is the largest teen baseball program in the United States with over 100,000 players participating nationwide.
In contrast to high school programs, American Legion baseball offers teens an opportunity to play under professional rules and provides competitive playing experience during the high school and college offseason. Athletes who compete in American Legion play full nine-inning games, follow the no-reentry substitution rule like the pros and are subject to most of the same rules as the players in Major League Baseball, with the exception of a few safety regulations.
Michael Stevens is a Gilroy High junior and the starting second baseman for the Gilroy Heat.
By Michael Stevens Special to the Dispatch