Shockers begin American Legion State Tournament
SHAWNEE It's not often to find a seven-team tournament of any kind, but that's how the Oklahoma American Legion State Tournament, which includes the Lawton-based Southwest Shockers, is set up this week in Shawnee.
Due to a plethora of summer baseball options for high school to college age players, participation in Legion ball is diminishing; so much that officials couldn't find an eighth team to make an even number for this year's event.
Oklahoma Legion Baseball Commissioner Dee Wilson can remember a time the league didn't have this problem.
"Back in the 1960s we had 27 Legion teams from Tulsa alone," he said. "Now we have none."
The Shockers open the double-elimination, bracket-play tournament at 1 p.m. today against the OKC Bulls Seniors. Two losses would end the Shockers' season, but a tournament championship would qualify them for the Mid-South Regional in North Little Rock, Ark., next week.
Arguably the best team in the field, the Oklahoma City Outlaws have a bye today due to the odd number of teams; it's not an ideal situation in a state tournament, but Legion officials were left with few options.
Wilson has a strategy he hopes to implement over the winter, which would help build the tournament back up to around 12 teams for next year.
"Hopefully we're going to grow," Wilson said. "The problem is everyone's going out to play showcase ball and other leagues (like Connie Mack and Mickey Mantle). It's still a fact that more kids get (scouted) in Legion."
Wilson said longtime MLB Bureau scout Jim Walton, from Shattuck, is expected to attend this week to watch players. The promise of exposure may be one of the strongest selling points to young players who are choosing to play their baseball elsewhere every summer.