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Troy plays host to American Legion teams

Some of Alabama’s best young baseball talent will be in Troy today through Monday for the Alabama American Legion Baseball Junior State Tournament.

The tournament will be held on the campus of Troy University at Riddle-Pace Field and will feature eight teams from across the state, including the hometown Post 70 Trojans.

Frank Hannah, Director of American Legion Baseball in Alabama, said those in attendance can expect some truly talented players.

“American Legion baseball isn’t quite as big as it used to be because there are so many travel teams now, but as far as quality goes, this is the best you can get,” Hannah said. “This is the best quality baseball a kid can play in Alabama. I would say around 90 percent of our kids go on to play either collegiate or professional baseball.”

Some of the talent on display will be familiar to Troy residents, as Post 70 head coach Bradley Futch has his team looking to repeat as state champions.

“We’ve got a good team. We just want to go out there and give a good showing,” Futch said. “We’re definitely going to give it our best shot.”

A tournament title for Post 70 would be a completely different experience for the Trojans since the tournament field has doubled from four teams in 2008 to eight teams in this year’s field.

“This is going to be a harder tournament, especially as it relates to pitching,” Futch said. “We don’t really have a very deep pitching staff, so we’re just hoping have enough quality arms to get us through the weekend. I think you’ll definitely see that the teams with the most quality arms will be the teams that have success.”

While pitching may be a concern, Futch does have a plan in place.

“We’re going to throw Blake Hutchinson on Friday, so we’ll see how that goes and go from there,” Futch said.

One advantage for Post 70 will be the advantage of playing in Troy on a field that will undoubtedly seem strange to some of the visiting teams.

“I think the experience on that field will definitely be to our advantage,” Futch said. “With that synthetic surface, the ball does bounce a little differently and you have to know how to play it, so that will be an advantage.”

Futch said he recognizes the edge that being familiar with Riddle-Pace gives his team.

“Especially in the outfield, you have to be aware of the ground you have to cover and how the ball could bounce off the wall if it gets over your head,” Futch said. “We’ve played a few games out there and we’ve practiced out there, so that experience definitely can’t hurt us.”

While the unique playing surface may be an advantage for the hometown team, American Legion seems to enjoy holding its tournament at Riddle-Pace Field. The 2009 state tournament will mark the second straight year that American Legion has held its tournament in Troy and it is the second year of a three-year contract with the university.

Hannah said Troy has been a great host thus far. “Troy University is a great place to hold this tournament because they are the most hospitable hosts we’ve worked with,” Hannah said.

Hannah said fans should come expecting to be impressed. “I think the fans can expect some excellent baseball. It’ll be a good atmosphere for baseball.”