Hamburg hosting tournament in inaugural two-division season of Pa. legion ball

In a year just concluded in which the PIAA expanded its classification system from four to six, Pennsylvania’s American Legion baseball organization joined the party by hopping on the class train.

In a little-publicized move, beyond its own circles, Legion ball in the state decided to split its member teams into two classifications this past winter. PA legion adopted a ‘divisions’ moniker, instead of ‘classes’. It is something other states have adopted in recent years, but makes its debut here this week.

The split criteria is based upon territorial size, with larger programs playing in Division 1 tournaments. Smaller programs had the option of staying with larger brethren, or declaring intent to compete in new Division 2 tournaments at the regional and state level.

Hamburg chose to align with the latter. And so the Reds — based upon their regular season winning percentage in the Schuylkill-Berks League this summer — will be hosting the inaugural Region 2 Division 2 tournament this coming weekend, July 15-16, as the No. 1 seed. Six teams will be involved. The format is pool play.

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“It’s not new, it’s new to Pennsylvania,” Hamburg manager Nick Evangelista said, following the Reds’ 6-1 win over Valley View in the Schuylkil-Berks League quarterfinals Saturday at Muhlenberg. “Not every state chooses to do it. It’s something Pa. is deciding to try this year.”

The Reds guaranteed themselves a postseason beyond the Schuylkill-Berks League playoffs, regardless of result, with the move. Hamburg could have been knocked out of the S-B tourney early and was still locked into hosting the new Region 2 Division 2 playoffs.

Conversely, however, the Reds are not eligible to compete in the ‘new’ Division 1 bracket, regardless of whether or not they won the S-B title (as of presstime, Hamburg was facing host and regular season champion Muhlenberg on Sunday night, July 9, in the S-B semifinals).

“Theoretically, you don’t have to win this thing anymore,” Evangelista said, referring to the S-B playoffs.

The choice to declare for Division 1 or 2 was ultimately left up the programs, but PA Legion needed a commitment one way or the other before the season started, by March 31.

Evangelista likes the idea of a Division 2 in Pennsylvania. It addresses issues, he said, pertaining to programs drawing from several towns and/or school districts by leveling the field for the truer ‘town’ teams, of which his Reds are.

“There are no rules in some of these other states regarding territory,” he said. “It’s basically whoever you can come get and for you. There is kind of flaw with territories. This gives us a chance to play some postseason baseball and really compete for a regional and a state championship.”