Hundreds of baseball games will be played this summer in Cranston. It’s a safe bet that no one will come as far to get to a game as the team in yellow that took the field for doubleheaders on Thursday and Friday.
There was nothing on the uniform that would indicate their hometown, but the team was Service Post 28, an American Legion team from Anchorage, Alaska. They came more than 3,000 miles to take part in the legion tournament hosted by Cranston’s Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20.
Though it struggled in the tournament, the team headed back to Alaska with fond memories.
“People have been really, really friendly, and we’ve got great accommodations at the Crowne Plaza,” said coach Ken Wooster. “We’ve really enjoyed it.”
The Post 28 program has had a long-running relationship with legion baseball in Rhode Island. John Parente, Rhode Island’s legion baseball commissioner and the manager of West Warwick Post Two, has had several of his teams travel to tournaments in Alaska. In return, the Post 28 team has been to Rhode Island three times.
This was the team’s first trip in several years. Wooster viewed it as the perfect opportunity for his team to see a different part of the country and to come together.
“Part of the goal was to travel and have the guys come together,” Wooster said. “We’ll travel a little bit, but a trip like this, you get to see every side of guys – in the heat, when it’s humid, against better competition. But we also want to travel and see the other side of the country.”
The team flew in on Tuesday and immediately experienced one of the most memorable moments of the trip. That night, the whole squad went to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play the Blue Jays. The Red Sox won 5-1.
“That was wicked,” Wooster said with a laugh. “We enjoyed the crap out of that. Red Sox win. The guys had a great time. It was a beauty.”
Back in Rhode Island, the team played one game against Parente’s West Warwick club, losing 5-2, before opening play in the tournament. The team went 0-4 in pool play, and Friday was particularly tough. Post 28 had to battle heat and humidity, as well as tough teams in Gershkoff and Oneonta, N.Y.
“We got a little beat up,” Wooster said. “Our top two pitchers have been a little banged up. We can’t plan for that. A couple of games have gotten a little ugly. Couple of bruises mentally and physically, but overall I think the guys have had a lot of fun. The hospitality has been fantastic. We’ve been very well taken care of.”
The heat was one of the biggest challenges. While temperatures were in the 90’s on Friday here, they were in the 60’s back in Anchorage.
“We don’t get this kind of weather,” Wooster said Friday, while several of his players let the Cranston Stadium sprinklers rain down on them.
Despite that, the hope is that the trip will pay dividends when the team returns to its schedule back home.
Whatever happens, it was a journey everyone will remember.
“There are probably a couple of guys who have been to the East Coast but the majority of them have not,” Wooster said. “For some of them, this may not be the only time they ever get to see the East Coast. This might be the only time they get across the Mississippi River. It’s a lot of fun for us.”