Fairview Heights Legion baseball merges with Swansea, gets a new look

News-DemocratJune 11, 2014 

The merger of the Fairview Heights and Swansea American Legion posts have also led to a new name and color scheme for the Legion baseball team based at Longacre Park in Fairview Heights.

Capitalizing on the "SF" theme with Swansea and Fairview Heights, the team has adopted the black and orange colors of the San Francisco Giants and is now the Swansea/Fairview Heights Giants.

"(Fairview Heights) looked at what was feasible to keep the post open and they just didn't have the numbers," Giants manager Craig Steiner said of the Legion programs. "They wanted to merge with another post because the numbers were getting too small. We've gone with orange and black and we've changed our look, changed our post number and changed our name."

Another merger adopted several years ago has brought players from Belleville East and O'Fallon together to play for the Giants.

That merger should help created another strong squad again this summer. The club was 17-19 last season while battling injuries, then got hot in the playoffs and finished second at the Fifth Division Tournament.

While Swansea/Fairview Heights has won all three games it has played, like other District 22 Legion clubs the Giants have had trouble beating the rain.

"We've been rained out more than we've played," said Steiner, whose team owns wins over Highland, Fulton, Mo., and the American-National Eagles.

Eight players return from last season, five from O'Fallon and three from Belleville East.

"We've got a pretty solid core of returning players with a lot of experience and leadership in that group," Steiner said. "We're pretty excited about this year. I think we're going to have a strong pitching staff we can go nine deep with our pitchers, so that really helps a lot."

At the top of the returnee list are infielder Tanner Hudson (O'Fallon, Heartland Community College) and Rich Boatman (Carl Sandburg junior college).

Hudson will play shortstop, with Collin Holton (O'Fallon) at third and Kevin Horner (Belleville East) at second.

Hudson missed much of the 2013 season with a hand injury, then caught fire late in the season and hit over .500 the rest of the way.

The first basemen and designated hitters are Anthony Garza (Belleville East) and Dean Gerros (O'Fallon).

The starting rotation includes Boatman, Tyler Scimio (O'Fallon), Garza, Tyler Herbert (O'Fallon) and Blake Deatherage (O'Fallon, McKendree).

"We're giving Deatherage little bit of time off before we put him into the starting rotation after the innings he threw in high school," Steiner said.

The bullpen includes Brady Schanuel (Belleville East), Robert Guithues and Miles Brunk, who is coming off a knee injury. Steiner said Schanuel will also see time on the Junior Legion level.

The outfield features speed and lots of potent bats with Domonic Blaylock (Belleville East), Deatherage, Guithues, Kyle Boewe and Dylan Ritter (O'Fallon).

The catchers are Drew Millas (Belleville East) and Hayden Hewitt (O'Fallon).

Steiner said Swansea/Fairview Heights has also added an extra Junior Legion club this summer.

"Belleville East dropped their summer baseball program, so we've expanded our program to give more Belleville East players a chance to play ball," he said.

Asked to predict the top teams in District 22, Steiner likes Belleville, Fairview Heights, Smithton, Highland, Alton and Collinsville.

"It's so balanced you really can't predict it," he said.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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