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Q&A: American Legion Baseball rule changes explained

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On Oct. 12, American Legion Baseball released a number of new rule changes starting with the 2018 season.

Gary Stone, chairman of the American Legion Baseball Committee, discussed these rule changes to give insight into the process of rule changes and the impact of the decisions.

Q: What is the process for rule changes?

Stone: Department baseball chairmen may propose rule changes to be discussed at an annual conference of the department baseball chairmen each September. The chairmen make recommendations to the Baseball Committee, which makes recommendations to the Americanism Commission. These changes are approved by the National Executive Committee at the annual Fall Meetings in October.

Coaches who are interested in suggesting a rule change must go through their department baseball chairman. Typically, rule changes are only debated in odd years for implementation in even years. Pressing issues or safety concerns may be addressed at any time.

Q: What caused the change to seven-inning games for national tournament play?

A: We are a high school program and this change brings us in line with high schools and the majority of regular season play. The overwhelming majority of our departments play seven innings during the regular season and those that wish to play nine innings during the regular season still may.

Over two-thirds of our department baseball chairmen were in favor of this change, including those representing over 72 percent of our teams. Nine of our 10 largest departments, in terms of team registration, voted for the change.

I think a big part of the change is player safety. With the PitchSmart initiative in place, seven innings is the appropriate way for our program to go. Player safety is always the most important factor we consider when we make rule changes.

Q: Can you talk a bit about the PitchSmart initiative and the pitch count changes?

A: I was pleasantly surprised how well the PitchSmart initiative went this year. Coaches understand how important arm safety is and, with most high schools switching to pitch counts, most coaches were familiar with the process by the time they got to summer.

We lowered the maximum on daily pitch counts for a number of reasons. But with seven-inning games in tournament play, we feel as though this is the right decision. The overwhelming majority of our pitchers are 18 or younger, so we wanted to get more in line with the pitch count suggestions for that age group.

We also added more flexibility for coaches to use pitchers by adjusting the pitch count for days of rest.

Q: Why did the committee recommend re-entry and courtesy runners in regular season play?

A: This topic has come up almost every year and I think the momentum was finally there to approve it. Almost every baseball chairman supported this change in regular season play. Some states will choose not to enact this for their regular seasons, but it is important that we gave an option. It is stressed, however, that neither will be allowed in national tournament play beginning with the state tournament.

I think allowing for courtesy runners helps with player safety. You have states that are playing doubleheaders in 100 degree, humid weather. It’s important to get pitchers and catchers cool and hydrated before they take the field.

For re-entry, this allows for increased participation. It allows for coaches to play some players they might not have otherwise. Again, not every state will put this rule in place, but it was important to us that we gave an option to those states who thought it was necessary for their program to thrive.

Q: Can you explain the change to the graduate rule?

A: This was a rule that was put in for the right reasons, but has caused some inadvertent issues.

Our goal was to always make sure that no “super teams” were constructed using college graduates. At this point, we have enough safeguards to prevent that, so we can relax the rule on 19-year-olds who want to play Legion Baseball.

We were finding that 19-year-olds either never had the opportunity to play Legion Baseball or wanted to help start a new team and were not allowed to play.

We want more players to have a chance to be involved in our program to enjoy all of the benefits of being a Legion player and now more will be able to.

Q: What other changes can we expect to the rule book?

A: We did a comprehensive, word-by-word review of the rule book this September. It is crucial that all coaches familiarize themselves with all of the new rules once rule books are available in January 2018.

Most of the changes are clarifications and improvements in clarity, but there will also be some smaller changes.

All changes will be highlighted in the book for easy access and changes will be featured on www.legion.org/baseball.


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Legion history contest winners announced

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During his report to the National Executive Committee on Oct. 12, National Historian Richard Dubay announced the winners of the American Legion National History Contests for 2017.

Entries in the One-Year Narrative and One-Year Yearbook categories for both posts and departments were judged during Fall Meetings by a group of past and present department and national historians.

The 2017 winners are:

One-Year Department Narrative History Contest:

First Award, Department of North Carolina

Second Award, Department of Indiana

Third Award, Department of New Hampshire

One-Year Department Yearbook History Contest:

First Award, Department of Nebraska

Second Award, Department of North Carolina

Tie for Third Award, Department of Massachusetts and Department of Georgia

One-Year Post Narrative History Contest:

First Award, Pony Express Post 359, Saint Joseph, Mo.

Second Award, Harold L. Gregory Memorial Post 626, Fort Worth, Texas

Third Award, Berkeley Post 14, Martinsburg, W.Va.

One-Year Post Yearbook History Contest:

First Award, Mukwonago Community Post 375, Mukwonago, Wis.

Second Award, Frierson-Nichols Post 8, Winter Haven, Fla.

Third Award, Saxton-Willis Post 64, Heber Springs, Ark.

Find out more about how to compose an entry for next year at the website for the National Association of Department Historians of the American Legion (NADHAL): www.nadhal.org.


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Child Welfare Foundation awards $636,467 to 27 nonprofits

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In its 63rd year, the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation has awarded $636,467 to 27 nonprofits for 2018. The grant recipients were selected by CWF’s Board of Directors on Oct. 8 during their annual fall meeting in Indianapolis. The recipients have been awarded the grants to support youth-serving projects that seek to enhance the lives of children by addressing their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.

The following is a brief summary of the grants awarded, which were made possible thanks to the fundraising efforts and support from The American Legion, Sons of The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and Eight and Forty.

Adoption Exchange Association of Linthicum, Md., was awarded $9,192 for their project, “Every Child Deserves a Family.” This grant will provide a website to share useful information with other agencies to facilitate adoptions.

Angel Flight Soars of Atlanta was awarded $45,000 for their project, “Angel Flight Soars Website Revitalization and Native Pilot App.” This grant will help redesign their website into a more patient-friendly one. A mobile app for the pilots will also be designed so that pilots may manage their flights better.

Art with Heart of Seattle was awarded $30,000 for their project, “Art with Heart as Partners in Possibility.” This project will provide therapeutic intervention to children that have suffered from the loss of a parent, drug use or economic challenges. The American Legion Auxiliary supports this grant.

Arthritis Foundation of Atlanta was awarded $37,464 for their project, “JA Child Wellness Book.” This book will help children that have recently been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis to better understand their disease.

Birth Defects Research for Children of Orlando, Fla., was awarded $15,140 for their project, “Community Resource Center.” This project will create a section on their website that will be the contact point for other communities to learn how to investigate concerns and collect data about children with birth defects.

Autism Speaks of New York, N.Y., was awarded $31,000 for their project, “Interactive Guide to Individual Education Programs for Children on the Autism Spectrum.” This project will revamp the current Autism Speaks Guide and include a video series highlighting experts on autism, as well as adding interactive tools.

Camp Taylor of Modesto, Calif., was awarded $10,000 for their project, “2017 Youth and Teen Camp Program.” This is a free three to five-day medically supervised camp for children with congenital heart defects. The camp uses 3D technology to help kids better understand their heart condition.

Children’s Craniofacial Association of Dallas was awarded $32,000 for their project, “Wonder/Choose Kind.” This project will publish and print 5,000 of their “Wonder” books. The book helps teach children value, empathy and tolerance for people who are different from themselves.

CJ First Candle of New Canaan, Conn., was awarded $16,440 for their project, “Safe Infant Sleep in Childcare Settings.” This project will update a current brochure to include new recommendations on AAP safe sleep recommendations. The Sons of The American Legion support this grant.

Gratitude Initiative of Bryan, Texas, was awarded $21,000 for their project, “Gratitude Initiative Promotional Video.” This project will provide resources to high school students that are military dependents about how to apply for college. The American Legion Auxiliary supports this grant.

Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, Inc. of Arlington, Va., was awarded $25,000 for their project, “Helping Families Cope Successfully with Brain Injury.” This project will create a Facebook ad campaign to provide comprehensive information and resources for those parents and or children who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Hope Flight Foundation of Castro Valley, Calif., was awarded $8,000 for their project, “Free medical flights for children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses.” This project will transport children with serious illnesses, and their families, from remote areas and fly them to inner city hospitals for treatments. The Sons of the American Legion, Eight and Forty and the American Legion Auxiliary support this grant.

Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund of Oceanside, Calif., was awarded $20,000 for their project, “2017 Semper Fi Fund Kids Camp.” This project will send military kids whose parent(s) suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder to camp. The camp will have fun activities along with emotional support for the children. The Sons of the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary support this grant.

Kansas Braille Transcription Institute of Wichita, Kan., was awarded $11,919 for their project, “Red Sight and Blue, I can SEE her too.” This project will provide 2,550 blind students the opportunity to learn about the American flag and the patriotic ideas behind our great nation. The Sons of the American Legion support this grant.

Kids in Danger of Chicago was awarded $5,000 for their project, “New Material to Reach New Audiences.” This project will provide funding to update their KID brochure, Sleep Safe Checklist and Step to Safety Magnet.

National Braille Press of Boston was awarded $10,370 for their project, “Free Materials to Blind Children.” This project will educate blind children about the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

PAB’s Packs of Minneapolis was awarded $15,000 for their project, "Packs of Comfort for Chronically Ill Teens.” This project will provide custom designed backpacks, filled with special comfort items, to chronically ill teens in the hospital. The Sons of The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and Eight and Forty support this grant.

Partnership for Food Safety Education of Arlington, Va., was awarded $10,000 for their project, “Keeping Children Safe from Foodborne Illness.” This grant will provide webinars that will bring attention to food borne illnesses, while also providing helpful resources to reduce the rate of foodborne illness among children.

Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps of Boston was awarded $6,250 for their project, "Raising Awareness of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.” This grant will raise awareness of sexually exploited children and provide children with tools for prevention and intervention.

Saint Francis Community Services of Salina, Kan., was awarded $20,000 for their project,” Awareness of Child Sexual Human Trafficking in the Heartland.” This grant will create a video on human trafficking that will show individual stories of children and how they are coerced into that lifestyle. The Sons of the American Legion and The American Legion support this grant.

Songs of Love Foundation of Forest Hills, N.Y., was awarded $25,000 for their project, “Songs of Love Outreach Project.” This grant will provide personalized songs to seriously ill children up to the age of 21 at no charge to them. The Eight and Forty support this grant.

Talk about Curing Autism of Irvine, Calif., was awarded $22,070 for their project, “Autism Journey Guides and Educational Materials.” This grant will offer educational support to families that have children with autism. The education materials will give insight on life-changing therapies, current research and statistics, and references for support networks to improve the long term outcome.

The American Legion National Headquarters of Indianapolis was awarded $55,500 for their project, “2018 American Legion National Youth Programs Scholarships.” This grant will provide academic scholarships to the following youth programs: Boys Nation, Junior Shooting Sports, Baseball and Eagle Scout of the Year. The Sons of the American Legion support this grant.

The American Legion National Headquarters of Indianapolis was awarded $75,000 for their project, “The American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance Program for 2018.” This grant will provide temporary financial assistance to children of veterans in need of shelter, food, utilities and clothing. The Sons of the American Legion support this grant.

The JAYC Foundation of Los Angeles was awarded $50,000 for their project, “Communication and Mental Health Disorders in Children Involved with Law Enforcement.” This grant will help bridge the gap between law enforcement and children with mental disabilities. The educational materials will teach law enforcement officers what signs to look for in mentally ill children and provide them with information on how to interact with those children.

The National Children’s Cancer Society of St. Louis was awarded $6,715 for their project, “Beyond the Cure: Preparing for life after cancer.” This grant will help children who have survived cancer and provide them with insight as to what happens next. It will also help prepare families for the long term effects from cancer.

The Progeria Research Foundation of Peabody, Mass., was awarded $18,331 for their project, “Progeria Treatment Guidelines Handbook, 2nd Edition.” This grant will update the book from the 2010 version. The book will contain the most recent research and findings along with the latest recommendations of children with progeria.

The Sage Hawk Foundation of Coffeyville, Kan., was awarded $5,076 for their project, “Sage Hawk Computer Literacy Program.” This grant will provide a junior scholarship to a student with the highest GPA and a laptop computer to the student with the second highest GPA.


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American Legion Baseball announces major rule changes

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On Aug. 12, the National Executive Committee of The American Legion approved a number of rule changes for the American Legion Baseball program following the Baseball Committee’s extensive page-by-page review of the program’s rule book.

Listed below are some of the major rule changes approved, all of which demonstrate American Legion Baseball’s commitment to player safety and improving the quality of play.

The 2018 rule book will be released in January.

Gary Stone, chairman of the Baseball Committee, conducted an interview that can be found here, which goes into more detail regarding some of the decisions.

National tournament play will feature seven-inning games

Departments will still have the option to play nine-inning games during the regular season, however, beginning at the state tournament and all the way through the American Legion World Series, games will be seven innings. This proposal passed with overwhelming support of the department baseball chairmen and the Baseball Committee.

“Almost every high school and Legion program plays seven-inning games during the regular season so this change will create more consistency across the nation,” Stone said. “The identity of American Legion Baseball remains the same. We are more than the number of innings we play. American Legion Baseball is still the preeminent youth baseball program for teaching loyalty, teamwork, patriotism, sportsmanship, good health and active citizenship.”

Changes to pitch count

After a tremendously successful first season with pitch count rules under the PitchSmart program, the Legion Baseball Committee, with the support of the department baseball chairmen, adjusted the pitch count chart ahead of the 2018 season to be more in line with the suggestions from Major League Baseball and USA Baseball.

Pitchers will have a daily maximum of 105 pitches per day, down from 120.

Required rest will be as follows:

1-30 pitches: 0 days

31-45 pitches: 1 day

46-60 pitches: 2 days

61-80 pitches: 3 days

81+ pitches: 4 days

Pitchers may only make two appearances in any three consecutive days. Players will be charged with two appearances if they leave the pitching position and return as a pitcher in the same game.

“The first year of PitchSmart in American Legion Baseball was a resounding success and we continue to make adjustments to improve our implementation of the program,” Stone said. “These changes, along with shortened games in tournament play, put more of a focus on player safety for our program while still letting coaches manage games effectively.”

Courtesy runner and re-entry

In regular season play only, departments may have the option to allow for courtesy runners and re-entry.

Courtesy runners may be permitted for pitchers or catchers.

Departments that allow for re-entry may permit players to be substituted and return to the game once, provided the player returns to the same slot in the batting order.

Graduate rule

Language has been removed from the rule book that required 19-year-olds to be former Legion players.

Any interested 19-year-old must now play for their previous Legion team (if applicable) or the team closest to their domicile.

Changes to regional bid procedure

After a number of requests, bids to host regional tournaments may now be one year or two years. Previously, all bids were required to be two years.


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Education program to teach students about the Great War

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The relationship between The American Legion and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission continues with the inception of a professional education program that will hit six cities across the country by the end of the current academic year.

“Teaching Literacy Through History” will be presented by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the nation’s leading American history organization dedicated to K-12 education. The intent of the program is to help educators better teach the Great War to their students, especially by using primary sources – direct or firsthand pieces or accounts, such as letters, diaries, printed books, newspapers, photographs and more – to bring the era to life, rather than relying strictly on secondary sources like textbooks or other articles written after the fact. Literacy skills and tools for using these primary sources will be provided; the educators will leave with lesson plans and other resources, and the hope is that this new focus will benefit student understanding and performance.

The program is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Legion and sponsored by the commission, which will provide curriculum content, communication resources and more. Seminars will be held in six cities by the end of the 2017-2018 school year: Louisville, Ky.; Anchorage, Alaska; Albuquerque, N.M.; San Diego; Detroit; and Providence, R.I. Attending educators will hear lectures and discussion meant to deepen their own knowledge of the war by leading historians like Michael Neiberg, chair of war studies and professor of history at the U.S. Army War College, and Christopher Capozzola, associate professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Teaching Literacy Through History” is meant to come at World War I from a variety of angles – its causes, conduct, human aspects, results, and ultimate consequences and lessons. Jack Monahan, The American Legion’s representative on the centennial commission, lauded the program as an example of both organizations’ “mutual efforts to increase public awareness of World War I.”

Visit ww1cc.org for the latest from the World War One Centennial Commission; find out more about Gilder Lehrman at www.gilderlehrman.org.


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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.