This year Elsberry’s AAA Legion Baseball Team will bid farewell to five talented starters as Jordan Powell, Jay Ogden, Michael Ligon, Brennen Hurley and Joe Ilgenfritz surpass the maximum age of eligibility and head to college.
“It’s very tough to know I’m done,” said Ligon, who has played Legion baseball for the last five years. “I have loved playing for Elsberry and I will never forget the memories that came along with Legion ball.”
Ligon, who still isn’t sure whether or not he will play ball at the college level, will be attending St. Charles Community College in the fall and majoring in physical education.
“I really hope that in the future I can come back to Elsberry and become the baseball coach,” said Ligon.
Ligon played high school baseball for four years as well, but said he preferred playing AAA.
“Legion ball is more competitive than high school ball in my opinion,” said Ligon.
Ligon’s favorite memory from legion baseball was having the opportunity to play three out of five years in the All-Star Game.
“I would like to thank my parents for everything,” said Ligon. “They never missed a game and whether I had a good game or a bad one they always supported me and were by my side the whole way.”
“Mike has played for me three out of the last four years and has as much heart and love for the game as anybody I know,” said AAA Legion Coach Joe Pott. “He did whatever it took for the team to win and accepted any role we had for him without hesitation. His heart and passion are what you want in every player. That’s what I’m going to miss the most about him.”
When asked whether he had any parting advice for his AAA teammates who still have a few years left to play, Ligon did not hesitate.
“Play every inning like it’s your last so when the time comes [to leave] you have no regrets,” said Ligon.
Hurley, who has played AAA ball for the past two years and led this year’s team in hitting with a .379 batting average, an on-base percentage of .456 and 28 stolen bases, had a slightly different take on his Legion baseball career.
“The biggest difference between high school ball and Legion ball is playing with kids from different schools,” said Hurley. “Personally, I liked high school ball a lot better because I played with the same guys I had played with ever since I was little. It was like playing with eight brothers on the field.”
Hurley, who is majoring in business management, will be a sophomore at John Wood Community College this year. During his freshman year he started at second base and led his college team in hitting.
Hurley’s passion for athletics, however, may lead to a change in his course of study.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that business management is what I really want to do. I’m also thinking about sports management and/or athletic training,” said Hurley.
Some of Hurley’s favorite legion ball memories include going to state the year he played AA ball and making the All-Star Game every year that he played in the Legion.
“Brennen is the ultimate team player, always trying to keep the team positive and doing whatever it takes to help win,” said Pott.
“He has played with that enthusiasm since I started watching him play ball when he was eight or nine years old. We will miss him as a leader and as a player, but hopefully he can come back and help mentor the younger players coming up.”
Like Ligon, Hurley’s parting advice for his younger Legion teammates centered on leaving it all on the field.
“Compete during every pitch of every single game. You never know when your last game will be. Don’t have any regrets when it’s over,” said Hurley.
Hurley also acknowledged that his baseball career would not have been what it was had it not been for the influence of numerous coaches and staff members.
“I’d like to thank all my coaches for teaching me how to play the game the right way,” said Hurley.
The coaches that Hurley listed included his father, Tim Hurley, as well as Joe Pott, Rick Phillips, Chris Dameron, Jason Howard, Dylan Terrell and Andrew Beckimeir.
“Most importantly I’d like to thank the Legion for allowing us to play on the field and everybody else who makes that possible, especially Darrell Painter,” added Hurley.
Hurley had mixed feelings about leaving Legion ball and heading back to school.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. I’m going to miss playing for my hometown and in front of all the Elsberry fans, but I’m excited because I get to go play college ball again,” said Hurley.
Ilgenfritz, who played AAA ball for the past two seasons, will be heading to Quincy University in the fall and is looking forward to competing on the college level.
“I would say there is better competition in Legion ball because teams get kids from multiple high schools instead of just one,” said Ilgenfritz. “I’m sad to see Legion ball end but I’m excited for college ball this year and I’m glad that I have the chance to keep playing baseball.”
Ilgenfritz said that his favorite memories of Legion ball will always be the trips out of town.
“I really enjoyed the out of town tournaments and the district tournament. Even though we didn’t win it was still a lot of fun,” said Ilgenfritz.
This year Ilgenfritz was the leader of the AAA pitching staff with a team high 68 innings pitched and an ERA of just 0.79.
“He was a bulldog on the mound,” said Pott. “Like Brennen, Joe had a team first mentality. Whatever we needed him to do, he did without hesitation.”
Pott added that the team was pretty short-handed this year and Ilgenfritz stepped up at several times with more than just his pitching.
Like Hurley, Ilgenfritz was quick to give credit to his coaches.
“I want to thank all of our coaches for the time and effort they put into this team,” said Ilgenfritz. “We had a great year and it’s all because of our coaches.”
Although he is leaving the team, Ilgenfritz expressed concern for his younger teammates with regard to effort and lack of regret.
“Always give 100 percent and never take anything for granted because before you know it, it will all be over,” said Ilgenfritz.
Powell, who played Legion ball for the past six years, also viewed the experience as more competitive than high school ball, and said he would advise people to play Legion ball because of the competition and the variety.
Powell’s most unforgettable moment is getting into a rundown between second and third, falling to his stomach to avoid the tag, then walking to third knowing he was safe only to look at his arm and see a huge gash in it.
Powell is attending Lindenwood University and majoring in fire and paramedic sciences.
He plans on trying out for Lindenwood’s team this year.
“Jordan was a great player who played anywhere he was needed,” said Pott. “He was funny and quick-witted and led by example.”
Also leaving the AAA team this year is Ogden, who was unfortunately unavailable for comment.
“Jay played the game with determination,” said Pott. “When we needed him to close the game, he came in and took control.”
Legion ball may be over for these five young men, but they have the rest of their lives ahead of them, and the future looks bright.
“We will miss them all and wish them the best in their future careers both in baseball and in life,” said Pott. “Hopefully one day they will be able to reflect on and be proud of the way they played ball and helped carry on the tradition of Elsberry Legion Baseball.”
(Article courtesy of Adam Presswood and Brian Gierer – Indian Sports Network)
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