That may be the best way to describe last weekend’s first-ever West Point American Legion Baseball Classic played at the United States Military Academy in New York.
“We couldn’t be happier with the results!” exclaimed Warwick’s Jim Foster Sr., president of the Rhode Island American Legion Baseball League who chaired the event founded by his son Jim Foster, who starred at Bishop Hendricken and Providence College and played 10 seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization and is now the Head Baseball Coach at West Point. “We far exceeded any and all goals.”
Despite Friday’s rain, which resulted in a reduction of games from four to three for the 10 competing teams, the inaugural tournament was such a smashing success some non-competing visiting coaches asked Foster about expanding the field and increasing the schedule from three to five days.
“People could not believe West Point,” Foster reported Monday upon his return to his home in Warwick. “People could not believe the high caliber of teams and they could not believe the way people at the Academy went all out to make everyone feel right at home.”
From the opening pitch until the emotional post-tourney awards ceremony, which featured a short, yet moving and heart-felt speech from Jim Foster, Jr., the West Point Classic touched on all points of Americanism – the game of baseball, sportsmanship and as the Army Head Coach emphasized: “That American Legion Baseball is still important to all teenage players in the country.”
“Our hope was to have a highly-competitive tournament that would showcase each player’s talents; to offer parents and friends the opportunity to tour West Point and possibly create a showcase that people could look forward to each year,” Foster, Sr., went on. “Well, I couldn’t be happier – this tourney clicked on all cylinders.”
The same held true for David Schiappa, the head coach of Gershkoff Auto Body-Auburn Post 20 of Cranston/Johnston, who Foster, Sr., credited with the Classic’s overall success.
“David did a lot of work…I mean a lot of work to put this whole tournament together,” Foster, Sr., offered. “He was constantly working away, corresponding with the teams. To be quite honest, we couldn’t have done it without him.”
Baseball-wise, Flemington, New Jersey, Post 159, which is regarded as one of the top ALB teams in the East, beat back a stiff challenge from Leesburg, Virginia, Post 14, another youth baseball powerhouse, for the championship.
The two Rhode Island entries – Gershkoff and Upper Deck Cumberland Post 14 – had a combined record of 0-5-1, yet their respective players, Foster, Sr., said: “Played hard and were complete gentlemen on and off the field. We were proud of their efforts.”
Meanwhile, Foster, Sr., – who had a wide smile on his face – wanted it known: “The caliber of play was high level, quick moving and very, very impressive. Also, people went out of their way to praise the umpiring crew and even the grounds crew at West Point that did a phenomenal job all three days.”
So, the West Point American Legion Baseball Classic, replete with a storied MVP Trophy that like other awards was designed by Shane Awards of Warwick and because of the talent level went to two players, is in the books.
When asked if there will be a Classic II, Foster, Sr., offered: “It took a lot of work from a lot of people to put this together, but when you listen to the rave reviews, everything points in that direction.”