Young Pirates experience early success

Sports Editor

The Park Center American Legion baseball team has a roster filled with talented young players looking to earn valuable experience this summer.

Park Center’s Matt Morris delivers a pitch during Park Center’s 12-0 loss to Coon Rapids June 27. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky)

Head coach Nathan Johnson has just one senior at his disposal this summer, as the majority of his roster is built with players that are set to return for the 2018 high school season.

“We only have one senior, so we’re a lot of juniors, sophomores and freshmen,” Johnson said. “These guys are getting experience against a lot of older guys, so we’re making sure we’re in the right positions and having the right approach at the plate.

“We’re learning some tough lessons along the way that we hope will pay off next spring in huge dividends.”

Despite the team’s youth and inexperience, the Pirates have gotten off to a good start to the summer with four early wins.

“We have four wins on the season, we just came back from Alexandria, where we advanced out of pool play only to meet Champlin Park,” Johnson said. “They didn’t treat us kindly, they still had pitching and we were running on fumes, but it still was good to advance out of pool play and have a chance at competing for a championship.”

Early on in the summer, Johnson is looking for his players to not only gain confidence, but also for them to learn that they are capable of competing each time the team takes the field.

“The coaching staff, once we have had some time to talk after the season, is very excited for the next two-three years with what we have seen coming up through the youth programs,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some good young talent, it’s keeping them motivated and wanting them to keep getting better and moving up the ranks in the Northwest Suburban Conference and vie for a couple wins, if not playing for a section championship one day.”

With the hope for a bright season sometime in the not-so-distant future, Johnson is keeping his goals for his summer team as simplistic as possible.

“We want to keep the enjoyment and the fun while hustling on and off no matter what the score is,” Johnson said. “We want to finish the season strong.

“Obviously they have been going hard since March, so for a lot of them it can be taxing, we have a lot of dual-roster guys with legion and VFW, so a lot of the time they are going from one game to the next.”

Park Center will begin play in the Gopher Classic tournament at 1 p.m. Friday, July 8, at Woodbury High School’s Royal Stadium.

Follow Sun Post sports editor Chris Chesky on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris and on Facebook at SunSportsStaff.