Even though high school playoffs are concluding – baseball is just heating up with the start of American Legion Baseball, Connie Mack, travel clubs, and scout teams throughout the southland state.
Players from high schools and community colleges once again will lace up their cleats and join various teams to continue playing baseball, honing their skills and hoping to be seen by scouts and college.
Santa Monica American Legion baseball has been around for more than 50 years and has seen such players don its jersey as Tim Leary, Tony Tarasco, James Cooper, Dave Montanri, Cody Decker, and Tyler Skaggs. There were some great early years in the mid 70s led by coaches Al Montanri and Tom McCaffery when Santa Monica had Legion teams that went to the finals and semi-finals in 74, 75 and 77 and won the American Legion National Championship in 1976.
Coach Montanri and McCaffery are responsible for starting Santa Monica’s American Legion team, and Montanri is still involved as its general manager. “We can use some sponsors and donations for the team. It’s not cheap to keep the team going so any help we can find would make it better for our players to compete,” Montanri said.
Santa Monica fields two American Legion teams this summer. An A and B, the former this year being for older players between 18 and 19 years of age, who are leaving high school or have spent one year playing in college. The B team this year will be made up of high school junior and sophomore varsity players.
“Coach Sheldon Phillip-Guide asked that we keep the core group of the Santa Monica High (SaMoHi) varsity team together. But generally, the Santa Monica team is not a development program for SaMoHi, and there will be players on the team this year from St. Monica High and New Roads,” Larry Areola, coach of the A team said.
Unlike Connie Mack league and club or travel teams that can select players from anywhere in the country to come play for them, American Legion limits its teams to district boundaries. Santa Monica can only use players from SaMoHi, St. Monica, Crossroads, Malibu, New Roads, Windward, and Pacifica Christian.
There are a total of six A and six B teams in the district. In the A league there are Beverly Hills, Fairfax, Palisades, Westchester, University and Santa Monica. In the B league there are Brentwood, Malibu, Windward, Westchester, Palisades, and Santa Monica.
Coaches Dave Montanri and Larry Arreola will manage the Santa Monica A Team and coach Doug Kim, who last year led the B team one game short from going to the state tournament, and SaMoHi JV coach Richard Armendariz. Coach Sheldon Philip-Guide, coach of the varsity team will also lend his time to overseeing the B team.
There will be 16 games played over a six week period to determine the district’s champion, and they will go on to play in a double elimination area tournament. Area winners then go on to the state tournament held in Yountville, CA and played on Borman Field, on the grounds of the Yountville Veterans Home.
There are still spots available for players on the A team
Play begins on Sat., June 4, around the district with half of this year’s games being played on various high school fields and the other half at Jackie Robinson Stadium, home of the UCLA Bruins.
Santa Monica A Team opens play against Palisades at Palisades. Game time is Saturday 11 a.m.
Santa Monica B Team plays Monday, June 6, at 5 p.m. against Brentwood at Brentwood High.