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Department Spotlight: West Virginia's Boys State program is 80 years strong

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This past June, 400 young men from one state stayed in 13 cabins for seven days to receive leadership training and gain insight into the political process. Those rising high school seniors are now a part of the more than 30,000 graduates of the Department of West Virginia American Legion's Mountaineer Boys State program.

Founded in 1936, Mountaineer Boys State is the second-oldest Boys State program in the nation and has been located for all 80 years on historic West Virginia University Jackson's Mill State 4-H Campground – the boyhood home of Gen. Stonewall Jackson. The idea to adopt the program in West Virginia was initiated in 1935 by then Department Commander C.L. Smith from St. Albans, W. Va., after forming a committee and visiting the first Boys State program in Illinois. Soon afterward, the incoming Department Commander W.G. Stathers of Clarksburg, W. Va., had the idea to host it at West Virginia University since it was centrally located and resembled the grounds of the Department of Illinois' Boys State program.

Mountaineer Boys State Director Jim Davis credits the longevity of the program to the alumni that come back to serve on staff, the dedication shown by West Virginia Legion family members, notable speakers, and changes made to adapt to technology advancement.

One way the program has evolved with technology is through voting. The Boys State delegates cast all of their ballots on voting machines that citizens use during local, state and national elections. The ballots casted are for positions that the young men run for in pursuit of their career path at the program, whether it's in politics, journalism, banking, law enforcement, National Guard and more.

Speakers have included World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams, state senators and governors, professors, researchers and program alumni. A few alumni include former Los Angeles Lakers player Jerry West and former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise.

Mountaineer Boys State has remained a premiere youth program of the department "because of the quality of leadership that the boys receive during the week and the many great speakers," said Davis, a member of Post 46 in Benwood, has served on staff for 15 years. "Also, when the boys return to school they are telling everyone of their special week at Boys State."

A week that often shapes the future.

"We hear thanks and more thanks about the way we changed their plans for the future," Davis said.

Now, the countdown is on for the 2018 Mountaineer Boys State program – June 10-16.








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Legacy Run Day 4: 'You want to make sure they're safe'

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Tuesday morning, more than 230 motorcycles departed Richfield City, Utah, and traveled across the mountains, national forests and desert to end up in Ely, Nev.

Among those motorcycles was a small group whose sole function is to ensure that someone is looking out for the riders: the Legacy Run’s advance team. The team normally leaves 30 minutes or so ahead of the main group of riders, advising the road captains of potential hazards ahead, and then orchestrating refueling efforts and parking at lunch and dinner stops.

Todd Harris, a member of John D Wibby Post 86 in Overgaard, Ariz., has been on the advance team seven of his 10 years on the Legacy Run. While the team has ways it wants to do things, Harris said it also has to be able to think on the move.

“Our slogan is ‘sember gumby’ – always flexible,” Harris said. “When we get out there, we do have overhead pictures and general guidelines. But 99 times out of 100 it never works out that way. You have trucks in the way, cars, just the general public wanting to come out and see us. Those are all hazards; as much as we want the publicity, they’re all hazards to the Riders when they get in the way.”

Like Harris, many of the advance team members have been a member of the team for years – from three to as many as 11 years. That type of continuity is beneficial.

“We work as a team,” Harris said. “We’re family. We think alike. We all have the same goal of the safety of the Riders. It takes special people to have that mentality.”

Rhonda Cowen, a Legion Rider from Francis Neidlinger Post 79 in Zionsville, Ind., and an 11-year member of the advance team, is a part of the advance team for one simple reason. “I know how I would feel if I was in a big group,” she said. “I would want somebody protecting me. There’s a lot of things out there. There’s a lot of challenges. You want to make sure they’re safe.”

Touching gesture

The Border Inn, which sits on the Utah-Nevada border and served as the lunch stop for the Run on Tuesday, had to bring in extra staff to help out serving lunch. But when the extra staff found out why the Riders were doing what they do, they wanted to help.

“They said they wanted to donate their (extra pay) to the Legacy Run,” Chief Road Captain Bob Sussan said. “It was really pretty amazing.”

Thanks for the weather

During Tuesday’s wreath laying at the Ely, Nev., Veterans Memorial, Mike Raymond – a Legion Rider from Post 110 in Port Charlotte, Fla. – provided the prayer. He also thanked someone near and dear to all the Riders’ hearts: Verlin Abbott, the Run’s longtime chief road guard who was killed in a motorcycle accident Aug. 5.

“Please let Verlin know we appreciate what he’s doing with the weather,” Raymond said.

Elks open their doors to ride

Elks Lodge 1469 in Ely hosted the Run’s dinner stop, providing grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. Lodge 1469 Exalted Ruler Alan Lafferty, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1997-2001, said it was an honor to host the ride.

“Being a Marine myself, it’s just an honor to serve my fellow veterans,” Lafferty said. “We open our doors for every veteran. It’s a chance to still feel like you’re serving even though you’re not wearing the uniform anymore.”

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Legion Baseball awards presented at ALWS

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George W. Rulon, American Legion Player of the Year Award: Shane Spencer, Henderson, Nev.

The award is presented annually in memory of a long-time dedicated director of the American Legion Baseball program for 25 years. This award is presented to a World Series player who best represents teamwork, loyalty, cooperation, self-reliance, fair play and courage. The recipient will attend the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame Classic game next year in Cooperstown, N.Y., May 2018.

American Legion Baseball Big Stick Award: Jack Thomas Wold, Henderson, Nev., – 29 total bases

This is awarded annually to an American Legion Baseball player at the World Series. The presentation is made to that player who compiles the highest number of total bases in regional and World Series competition.

American Legion Baseball Slugger Award: Jordan Patty, Midland, Mich. - .529 batting average

Since 1945, the American Legion Baseball program has presented an American Legion Baseball Slugger trophy annually to the player compiling the highest batting average during national competition, a minimum of 12 plate appearances is required in both regional and World Series competition.

Dr. Irvin L. "Click" Cowger RBI Award: Zack Luckey, Omaha, Neb. – 13 RBIs

American Legion Baseball lost a dynamic leader during the 1970 season. In his memory, the National Americanism Commission established the Dr. Irvin L. (Click) Cowger RBI Memorial Award. The recipient of this annual award is the American Legion Baseball player who is credited with the most runs batted in by the official scorers at the respective regional tournament and World Series tournaments.

Bob Feller Pitching Award: Jordan Patty, Midland, Mich. – 19 strikeouts

American Legion Baseball's first graduate to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., was “Rapid Robert” Feller. This award is presented annually to the pitcher who has the most strikeouts in regional and World Series competition.

James F. Daniel Jr., Memorial Sportsmanship Award: Will Hanafan, Omaha, Neb.

The award is presented annually in memory of a long-time dedicated supporter of the American Legion Baseball program from South Carolina. This award is presented to a World Series player who best represents teamwork, loyalty, cooperation, self-reliance, fair play and courage.

Jack Williams Memorial Leadership Award: Henderson, Nev., coaching staff

State Adjutant Jack Williams was a strong and well-respected leader for The American Legion, Department of North Dakota. His great love for the game of baseball was evident in his early efforts to help organize American Legion Baseball. Aware that proper adult leadership was an important ingredient of a successful program, Williams constantly encouraged qualified men to work in the program. In memory of Mr. Williams, The American Legion annually presents this award to the manager and coaches of the National Championship Team as representatives of the adult leadership Williams stressed during his lifetime.

StatCrew All-Tournament Team

Designated Hitter: Zach Luckey, Omaha, Neb.

Utility Player: Jordan Patty, Midland, Mich.

Catcher: Roger Riley, Henderson, Nev.

First Base: Jack Thomas Wold, Henderson, Nev.

Second Base: Peyton Williams, Randolph County, N.C.

Third Base: Tom Steier, Omaha, Neb.

Shortstop: Will Karp, Hopewell, N.J.

Outfield: Will Hanafan, Omaha, Neb.

Outfield: Logan Allen, Bryant, Ark.

Outfield: A.J. Light, Lewiston, Idaho

Pitcher: Matt Stansky, Strewsbury, Mass.

Pitcher Josh Culliver, Omaha, Neb.

Pitcher: Shane Spencer, Henderson, Nev.

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Nevada claims 2017 American Legion World Series title

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From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, Henderson, Nev., Post 40 went from expecting elimination to lifting the 2017 American Legion World Series trophy in just 48 hours after a 2-1 victory over Omaha, Neb., Post 1 on Tuesday night.

After a loss on Sunday, Nevada thought the team was eliminated, but by virtue of a tiebreaker, Post 40 advanced.

A semifinal win over Bryant, Ark., Post 298 on Monday sent the team to the final, where Henderson faced a familiar foe.

A rematch of Game 2 of the tournament proved to be a lot more competitive than the original meeting. In that contest, Nebraska slashed 21 hits, one shy of the ALWS Record, in a 9-1 rout. Nebraska also became the first team in ALWS history with four players each with four or more hits.

The same starter for Nebraska in that game, Joshua Culliver, took the hill after a sparkling seven innings of two-hit ball on Thursday against Nevada. Shane Spencer, just 16 years old, got the call for Nevada. Spencer was coming off of his own seven-inning gem, only allowing one hit against Shrewsbury, Mass.

Nevada stranded two runners in each of the first two innings, while Nebraska scored in the bottom of the first to take an early lead.

Tom Steier walked to lead off for Omaha and advanced on a single by Will Hanafan. After a nice bunt by Zach Luckey, Dylan Phillips brought Steier in with a sacrifice fly.

Nevada got a run back as Jack Thomas Wold, who had a .952 slugging percentage in the regional tournament, laced a ball down the right field line for a double with two outs in the third. Wold came around on a single by Garrett Giles. Wold finished with 29 total bases in the regional and World Series tournaments.

The teams remained on level pegging until the sixth inning when Henderson’s J.J. Smith singled, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Nick Thompson did his job to bring in the runner with a sacrifice fly to give the designated visitors the lead.

Spencer, who was locked in on the mound, finished the game off with more stellar pitching, finishing with a line of seven innings pitched, three hits and only one run allowed.

For his work on the hill, Spencer was named the 2017 George W. Rulon Player of the Year.

“It took a couple innings to settle in because I have never been in this atmosphere before,” Spencer said. “I wasn’t expecting these awards as a pitcher. It is a great feeling. I’ve never been on this big of a stage before. What a great feeling it was and I hope I’m here again next year."

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ALWS Game 14: Nebraska holds on to reach championship game

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Omaha, Neb., Post 1 took a 2-1 lead early on Monday night over Randolph County, N.C., Post 45 before the game was suspended due to lightning and rain.

That lead was enough, as Nebraska held on for a 3-1 win, earning a spot in Tuesday night's American Legion World Series championship game.

The game got off to a fast start on Monday, with a four-pitch walk to North Carolina’s Dalton Hammer, a single by Dawson Painter and an error, which brought Hammer around to score.

The bottom of the first started with a walk to Tom Steier, Will Hanafan getting hit by pitch and a wild pitch before Zach Luckey brought both runners home.

And then the rain came.

As has been a theme in this tournament, weather did not cooperate, forcing the game to be resumed at 4 p.m., on Tuesday.

And just as Tuesday’s heat replaced Monday’s rain, Tuesday’s stellar pitching replaced Monday’s quick runs as North Carolina's Ryan Hill and Nebraska's Dylan Phillips settled into a groove on the mound.

Phillips kept his team’s lead intact by keeping North Carolina off of the scoreboard until he was replaced by Dane Hansen in the sixth, and was aided by a nice catch from Hanafan to end the top of the fifth.

Hill worked out of trouble with a strikeout on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fourth and kept Nebraka’s potent offense at bay through five.

An insurance run came in the bottom of the sixth after singles from Nate Reiner and Hansen put runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly from Cameron Blossom scored Reiner and the lead was two.

In the seventh, Hammer and Painter led off with singles off of Hansen and Cam Morrison navigated a long at bat to work a walk to load the bases.

Hansen buckled down, forcing two popups and inducing a ground ball to work out of trouble and to earn the save.

With the win, Nebraska gets a short turnaround to face Henderson, Nev., at 7 p.m., Tuesday on ESPNU.

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