With only a couple of practices under his team’s belt, Sedalia Post 642 Travelers manager Jeff Mays concedes it has been a scramble to jump from high school baseball into senior American Legion play.
But helping ease the transition is something Mays didn’t foresee: a large selection of athletes at tryouts.
Dwindled down from 33 athletes, which Mays calls “the greatest turnout we’ve seen in Sedalia in several years,” the Travelers have 16 seasoned players from seven area schools ready to improve on last year’s 23-24 mark.
The turnout is a stark difference from last year.
“Last year was a tough year,” Mays said. “We had some good times but we were pretty depleted toward the end; we only had 11 guys. It’s pretty tough to play the schedule we play with 11 guys.”
With June 15 the cutoff date to add players to the roster, Mays contends the roster could expand to house a few more valued recruits.
But currently, he’s happy with a roster that includes eight Smith-Cotton players, three Knob Noster standouts and one athlete each from Northwest, Marshall, Tipton, Warsaw and Cole Camp.
Mays is excited about the possibilities of keeping his players fresh in a schedule filled with nearly 50 games in a two-month span.
“We feel we can run a different team out there every game and compete and do very well,” Mays said.
The depth starts with the pitching staff, where the Travelers have nine ready to take the mound.
Smith-Cotton’s Dalton Christian, Jordan Dey and Dominique Smith (who is expected back in three to four weeks after suffering an ACL tear while playing basketball last winter), Warsaw’s Devon Dewitt, Knob Noster’s Zach Parrott and Matt Malkey, Marshall’s Ryan Smith, Northwest’s Chance Hutchison and Cole Camp’s Tyler Rusk will all be called upon to pitch in starting and relieving capacities.
“We have a staff full of good arms,” Mays said. “Last year we kind of leaned heavily on a few guys, but this year we’ll have the luxury of having some depth and fresh arms.”
The lineup packs the same potential.
Along with Jacob Bush, Dey and Spencer White, who wreaked havoc on opposing pitchers for the Tigers, the Travelers welcome a bevy of big bats.
Along with Bush, Dey and White, the players who pack more than just warning track power are all-state outfielder Rusk and infielders Parrott, Malkey, Dewitt, Ryan Smith, Brian Clark, Dustin Broaddus and Hutchison.
“Last year we didn’t have a lot of big hitters in the lineup, so it’s nice to see the pop this year,” Mays said.
Players with gap power include infielders Christian, Tanner McKee, Dalton Martin and Cameron Backes and outfielder Smith.
“We’re really excited about the lineup,” Mays said. “From top to bottom, we have guys that can hit.”
Mixed with the wealth of arms, Mays hopes the lineup can carry the Travelers to the same success they had two years ago when they finished 38-6, won the zone tournament and finished fourth in the Missouri American Legion Triple-A baseball tournament.
“We’ve talked about our goals and we want to get back to that final four,” Mays said. “I’m hoping we have the team to do that. I’ve seen the kids hit and pitch and do some other things and I think we’re a pretty talented group. Where that takes us, we’ll see.”