The American Legion Baseball patch is sewn onto the left sleeve of Oneida Post 727's Owen Wolfe of Galesburg during a game against Peoria on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Oneida.

Is American Legion baseball dying in Illinois?

The answer is: It’s surviving.

“I don’t believe we are dying. I believe we have had a few down years,” said John Gosney, who is the 3rd Division’s baseball chairman. “I don’t want to toot my own horn but with strong leadership comes strong programs.

The faded orange Illini Feeds grain elevator sit beyond the centerfield fence at John P. Clark Field as Oneida Post 727 lefty Brodie Secrist pitches to a Peoria hitter on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

“We’ve been getting the high school coaches on board and having them run the Legion programs. That way the philosophy from the high school comes to the Legion,” he added. “We scratch their back and they scratch ours.”

The American Legion’s Department of Illinois 3rd Division includes Abingdon, Bartonville, Canton, East Moline, Farmington, Galesburg, Kewanee, Jerseyville, Macomb, Milan, Moline, Monmouth, Oneida, Peoria, Rock Island, and Quincy.

More:Oneida Post 727 is only area American Legion baseball team playing this summer

Only East Moline, Moline, Oneida, Peoria and Rock Island are fielding teams in 2021. Abingdon and Monmouth didn’t assemble squads due to the pushed back high school season and the fact their players frankly needed the rest. 

Oneida Post 727 first baseman Reid Stufflebeam takes the throw at the bag for a putout during a home game with Peoria on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

Across the state, there are only 57 teams, according to the American Legion’s website. There are 23 junior squads. Those born in 2002 or 2003, must play senior ball.

“I think when I first got involved we had about 200 teams in Illinois and in 2019 I had 137 total,” said Don Wallace, who resides in Belleville and is in his ninth year as the Department of Illinois Baseball Chairman for American Legion Baseball. “We’ve lost some teams because of COVID.