U.S. Baseball Online Feature
American Legion World Series
by Bill Wells
photos by Jan Cronkright
Jordan Dean admitted Berryhill Post 165 of Midland, Mich., was just happy to be at the 2008 American Legion World Series.
This year, however, Dean and a veteran Berryhill team wanted more – and they got it.
After winning its state and regional tournaments, Berryhill went undefeated at the national tournament en route to winning the 2009 World Series title Aug. 14-18 at Fargo, N.D.
“The program... we’ve won way more than our share of state tournaments,” said Steve Cronkright, in his 16th season as the Berryhill manager. “We keep going back and working hard. You never imagine winning the last World Series game. To get there is a dream every year.
“It was really a treat (to win).”
“We just played the way we did all season long,” said Dean, who was named MVP of the World Series. “We didn’t change anything come playoff time. I think the big key was knowing what we could do and sticking with what we did all season.”
Last season, Berryhill reached the World Series for the first time since 1996.
“We went to the World Series the previous year and we were just happy to be there, I guess you could say. It had been 15 years since we had been there before,” said Dean, Berryhill’s four-year starting shortstop.
“Getting there this year, we thought we could do something and we could win it.”
Berryhill had 10 players return from the 2008 team: Garrett and Max Yatch, Kyle O’Boyle, Larsen Cronkright, Ryan Longstreth, Sean Hartman, Matt Cresswell, Eric Dawson, Ben Singer and Dean. The veterans wanted more than to merely make an appearance, and they set the example for the rest of the team.
“We had some guys on the team last year and we banded together and set the mindset that we could take this whole thing,” Dean said.
And that’s what Berryhill did, winning five straight games on its way to the championship. Post 165 topped Medford, Ore., 11-4 in the final to claim the first-place trophy.
“It was a great feeling to go out my last game, and to win the last game of my Legion career was amazing,” said Dean, who’s on scholarship at Division I Central Michigan University.
“We’ve had a great history of American Legion Baseball through our program,” Cronkright said. “My brother, Nelson, managed for 10 years, and I took it over in 1994. He still helps out. And I have a brother, Dan, who played five years in the White Sox organization, and he helps, and I have good friend, Pat Dawson, who pitched at Purdue.
“But what stands out is the community. I’ve been to 11 regionals, and this is my third World Series. We’ve knocked at the door a few times.”
Starting midway through the state tournament, Berryhill went against a standard baseball rule of thumb, opting to be visitors regardless of whether it won the coin flip or not. Not by choice, Cronright’s squad was the visitors in its first three state games and “struck early and often” before losing its fourth game, where the team was the home team.
“The next game we went visitor even though I won the flip, and after that we did it every time,” Cronkright said. “The only times we were home, we lost. Even if we won the flip, we were visitors. We seemed to get out of the box real fast.”
Berryhill scored a total of 12 runs in its final two state games, winning both battles and the state crown.
“In the state tournament, we won a coin flip and took home, and we lost that game,” Dean said. “We started picking visitors the whole time.
“That’s what we pride ourselves in – getting out early and getting on teams.”
Berryhill lost just once the rest of the way, falling in its second game of the regional, which was held at Appleton, Wis.
At Fargo, Berryhill became the darlings of the tournament. And why not?
“We had a lot of local fans on our side, I think because of the way we played,” Cronkright said. “We play with a lot of speed. We weren’t the biggest team there, by far. We were probably the smallest. But we run the bases well and play good defense, and we put the ball in play.”
Aug. 14-18, at Fargo, N.D.
W – 4-2 vs. Medford, Ore.
W – 11-8 vs. Las Vegas, Nev.
W – 3-2 vs. Texarkana, Texas
W – 15-14 Rowan County, N.C.
W – 11-4 vs. Medford, Ore.
Aug. 6-10, at Appleton, Wis.
W – 3-2 vs. Sandusky, Ohio
L – 13-6 vs. Hammond, Ind.
W – 8-1 vs. Rochester, Minn.
W – 10-8 vs. Nor-Gwyn, Pa.
W – 17-6 vs. Palatine, Ill.
W- 12-0 vs. Hammond, Ind.
Players: Cole Martin, Garrett Yatch, Jake Enszer, Eric Peterson, Ryan Longstreth, Kenton San Miguel, Chad Mayle, Ben Singer, Alex Rapanos, Sean Hartman, Kyle O’Boyle, Kenny Babinski, Jordan Dean, Larsen Cronkright, Eric Dawson, Nate Kuehne, Jordan Herman, Matt Cresswell, Max Yatch
Coaches: Steve Cronkright, Dan Cronkright, Nelson Cronkright, Pat Dawson