LJ Vikings American Legion Baseball: Becoming better students of the game
by ED PIPER
Published - 07/06/19 - 09:40 AM | 1052 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Noah Brown, La Jolla Vikings, tries to touch third base but is called out as his fingers are blocked by the left shoe of Clairemont third baseman J.J. Schimke. / Photo by Ed Piper 
Noah Brown, La Jolla Vikings, tries to touch third base but is called out as his fingers are blocked by the left shoe of Clairemont third baseman J.J. Schimke. / Photo by Ed Piper 
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For rising La Jolla High senior Johnny Meyerott, playing American Legion baseball this summer provides more game experience, after he missed most of the school season with a broken right hand, while fitting in with his family’s planned trip to Yosemite and other summer activities.

What’s the team’s strategy going to be for the short season encompassing June and July? “It’s kind of like the Korean War after World War II,” said the effusive Viking outfielder, warming up to the question. “[Korean War soldiers] were coming back from World War II. They would use strategy that worked in the earlier war. If it didn’t work, they didn’t use it.”

Not all his teammates have the same verbal enthusiasm, but Legion coach Jake Grosz enjoyed his left fielder’s war analogy. In fact, the La Jolla Vikings squad carries the name of a U.S. military plane (used to hunt submarines), as do each of the 22 teams in the second-year San Diego American Legion, which is split into Marine and Navy divisions. (LJHS is in the Navy Division.)

“We’re really working on becoming better students of the game, and our intangibles,” said Grosz at an early practice, explaining that “intangibles” consist of things like “pitchers reading the hitters’ swings, runners recognizing pitchers’ deliveries and pitch selection, runners picking up catchers’ signs.”

Sponsored by La Jolla American Legion Post 275, the Vikings, whose home field is at Muirlands Middle School, include 17 varsity and junior varsity players, plus a charter-schooler, corner infielder D.J. Lindroth. Senior catcher Jack Liebesman serves as player-coach. Grosz has to juggle his practices and game lineups among teens who are also competing in other sports and taking family vacations like Meyerott.

Varsity members, besides Meyerott, include seniors Noah Brown, shortstop; Cooper McNally, third base/shortstop; Calvin Hyytinen, outfield; Devin Brown, outfield; and Hobie Hood, outfield-pitcher. Jake Klimkiewicz is a junior infielder.

Junior varsity players include Simon Baker, junior infielder, Cole Duffy, sophomore catcher, and Connor “The Natural” Hobbs, an outfielder, all who each got a cup of coffee with the varsity this spring. Others are Owen McNally, first base-pitcher; Ryan Lancaster, outfield; Luke Roberts, outfield-pitcher; Beau Brown, first base-pitcher; Drake Damasco, infield; Trey Metz, infield; and Devin Bale.

During a recent practice, Grosz, a long-time coach specializing in pitching, ran 11 players through run-down drills — “only two or three throws” — first-and-third situations, team signals, and intensive infield with Liebesman and Grosz alternately hitting grounders to different players.

The elder McNally held down shortstop, with Baker at second and Lindroth, who will return to LJHS this fall, and Meyerott sharing third. A rotation of lefties covered first base: Beau Brown, the younger McNally, and others. Duffy manned the plate, as Grosz initiated situations from the mound.

At the end of practice, Meyerott and his coach agreed players use the “ABC” approach at the plate: “With no strikes, we wait for a pitch we can crush,” said Johnny (A); “with one strike, you’re looking for a pitch you can hit” (B); and “with two strikes, defend the plate” (C).

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