Rushing hangs it up

Published 7:38 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2018

When American Legion Post 70 manager John Rushing walked off the field on Monday in Asheboro, North Carolina, he bid a fond farewell to American Legion baseball.

Post 70 wrapped up the summer with a second-place finish in the Southeastern Regional tournament, sending Rushing out on a high note.

“I had a great team this year,” Rushing said. “They were a lot of fun and they were a good team to end on. The kids knew pretty much all summer that it was going to happen. I could tell there was a little bit of pressure to try and make sure they did well for me right there at the end.”
Even though the summer came to a close on Monday, Rushing still hasn’t let the fact that he is no longer with Post 70 quite sink in yet.

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“I probably won’t have any real feelings about it until next summer,” Rushing said. “There are things going on so until next summer rolls around there is not much of a difference.”

Rushing got involved with American Legion baseball in 1997 when he helped coach Tuscaloosa Post 34. He coached the junior 17U team in Tuscaloosa and led the team to a state championship. One year later he moved up to help the coach the senior Post 34 squad.

After taking a break in 1999, Rushing took over as head coach of Post 34 2000. He remained head coach in Tuscaloosa for 11 years from 2000 until 2011.

In 2012, Rushing moved to Troy and began to help coach his long-time rival Dothan Post 12.

“For several years, either he or I won the state championship at Tuscaloosa or Dothan,” Rushing said. “We came together to coach one year together.”

In 2013, Rushing felt there was a need to restart a program in Troy that had mainly stayed dormant for nearly 20 years.

“Terry Jinright ran it for years and years,” Rushing said. “They really didn’t have a senior team when he gave it up. His son Russ did a younger team for a few years in the mid to late 2000’s. They had not had a senior team since the early 90s.”

Rushing decided to head to the local Post 70 to gauge their interest on restarting the program.

“I went to the post and asked them if they would be interested in sponsoring a team,” Rushing said. “They were on board with that and we got it cranked up and got started.”

Post 70 just completed their sixth year and the program has grown in popularity every year. It started to really take off in 2016 when they won their first state title.

“It was always difficult to find guys those first two or three years,” Rushing said. “I kept saying if we could just win it one time then it would get going. In 2016 we won it for the first time; you could tell there were people who knew who we were.”

Post 70 has been a popular team to play for in the last few years because of the success they have had going back to 2016.

“We still have to go and find some players in some places,” Rushing said. “The kids in this Wiregrass area knows of Post 70 and its situation where they are a little more interested in wanting to come play.”

Over the course of his 21 years of coaching American Legion baseball, it’s the connection with people and the relationships that Rushing will remember most of all.

“The thing you think about when you realize you’re not doing this anymore, you start thinking about all the people that you know,” Rushing said. “You start thinking of all the people you know just because of baseball. That is what is great.”

Post 70 will now be in the hands of Rush Hixon. Hixon first coached the 15U team in 2014, before playing for the 19U team in 2015. Hixon has been coaching the 19U team with Rushing since 2016. Rushing will resume his duties at Troy University as the Director of Baseball Operations with the Trojans.

“That is why it’s easier to walk away,” Rushing said. “I know I have him. He has been putting the team together for three years. He started to learn some of the ins and outs of the business side. He wants to coach. It was because of American Legion baseball that I ended up at Troy doing the job that I do. It’s how I met coach (Bobby) Pierce and it’s how I met coach (Mark) Smartt. Because of that, it opened up doors for me. That’s what I wanted to do for him. I want him to have doors opened.”