Matt Freeman had a vision for a competitive group of the best baseball talent in the Owensboro area. Four years ago, he got to work making that dream a reality, assembling a squad of 14 players who were high school sophomores at the time.
Last summer, that group repaid their manager’s efforts with a highly successful run in the state tournament. The American Legion Post 9 Bombers — a team that has existed off-and-on for nearly 70 years — ultimately fell just short of their goal, finishing runner-up to Lyon County.
Along with a loss in the state tournament, Freeman also lost his original group of 14 players.
This season, after re-tooling with young athletes and hungry for a shot at that coveted state title, the Post 9 Bombers are ready to compete.
“The first couple of years we attracted good talent from the area,” Freeman said. “This year, however, we believe we have been able to attract the best talent in the area. It’s an exciting time to be part of Bombers baseball, and that is thanks in large part to the men around me who help make it happen.”
The men Freeman was referring to are his fellow coaches, as well as four main contributors in the community. This season’s coaching staff includes Gary Haire, Danny Hagan and Billy Tolle. While the latter two coaches are in their first season with the squad, the former is entering his fourth season manning the first base box.
Further support for Bombers baseball comes from announcer Walter Estes, ticketing overseer David Kirk, financial manager Larry Vanover and Scott Dotson — who manages travel details, umpire schedules and concessions.
“Our four main contributors from the community do so much for our program,” Freeman said. “We could not have built the reputation that we wanted to build over these last few years without their tireless efforts.”
This season’s roster is comprised of 17 players from six area schools:
– Owensboro: Brennon Williams, Collier Higgs, Griffin Haire, Ethan Gibson, Tucker Hagan
– Owensboro Catholic: Andrew Wiman, Mason Grant
– Apollo: Josh Maddox, Daylin Crabtree, Demetrio Ortiz
– Ohio County: Alex Reyes, Jordan Tolle, Wade Everly
– Henderson County: Ethan Cartwright, Cameron Hanley
– Hancock County: Parker Newby, Dylan O’Bryan
“One of the main reasons we have been able to get such outstanding young men to join our program is because of the success our last crop of players has enjoyed at the next level,” Freeman said. “In the last three years, 14 Bombers’ players committed to play college baseball and three joined the military. Those guys told their younger counterparts about the program and helped convince them to join us. We owe a lot to them.”
Though the weather may play a factor, the Bombers are slated to open the season on the road in Harrisburg (Ill.) today, followed by two seven-inning affairs at Bellevue (Ill.) on Sunday.
Following the weekend road trip, the Bombers host Evansville Funkhouser on their home turf at Shifley Park, with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.