A new summer brings new challenges for the Fort Mill Post 43 baseball team.  

Starting June 29, Fort Mill Post 43, who is playing S.C. American League Baseball this summer and not American Legion baseball, will start their season against Rock Hill Post 34.

Legion baseball was cancelled nationwide Mother’s Day weekend due to the coronavirus, yet Legion coaches and athletic directors around the state formed the new American League baseball to give athletes a chance to play baseball this summer after having the 2020 high school season cancelled.

“While this is not American Legion baseball it will resemble it very closely,” said Fort Mill head coach Tom Skula. “In talking with the American League committee, every coach voiced that we had to play for something and have a state champion crowned.”

However, with the new league comes challenges of working around the coronavirus knowing that the virus lurks in the shadows constantly. One of the issues this season for Fort Mill because of the coronavirus is the lack of a home field. Fort Mill will be playing their league games at Post 31 home field in Lancaster. They will be sharing that field with host Lancaster and Rock Hill, who also do not have a home field.

“I am very grateful to Jimmy Jackson and the Lancaster Legion Post,” Skula said. “Without them allowing us to use their field we most likely wouldn’t have had a team this summer.”

Fort Mill and Rock Hill normally play their games at one of the local high schools in their respective towns, but outside organizations aren’t allowed on those fields this summer due to the coronavirus. This will be just the third season ever in the modern era, since 1980, and second consecutive season that Post 43 hasn’t played at Fort Mill High. Last year, Fort Mill Post 43 played at Nation Ford for the first time while construction was being conducted on the baseball field at Fort Mill High. Post 43 used the Indian Land High field in the 1990s one season when again, work was being done on the field at Fort Mill High over the summer.

Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Lancaster will make up the part of the division of the Upper State, while Greer, Simpsonville, Easley and Inman make up the other part of the division of the Upper State, which is split in half to cut down on travel. There are 21 teams across the state that are playing in the newly formed American League with seven teams being a part of the Midlands division and seven teams being part of the Lower State division.

Last year’s team for Fort Mill made it the furthest any team ever had as they were part of the American Legion Southeast Regional tournament in Tampa. They finished runners-up in the state and finished the season 23-6.

This year’s team is made up of mostly Fort Mill and Nation Ford players, but for the first time has players from Catawba Ridge and Legion Collegiate Academy out of Rock Hill. The team also features Indian Land players as well. Returning from last year’s squad is Nation Ford’s Xavier Cumbee and Magdiel Cotto; Fort Mill’s Connor Rasmussen and Indian Land’s Kyle Raynor.

“We had a record breaking 2019 season, but only return four out of those 22 players,” Skula said. “We have a great mixture of both young talent and players back from college. Connor, Xavier, Kyle, and Magdiel know what it takes to get us back to where we were last year. I’m really looking for those “Legion” veterans to set the tone for our team this summer. I’m excited to see what this team can do this summer. We have only been on the field together as a team for three practices. I am just happy to give these seniors the opportunity to have some sort of season. I’m also excited to have a lot of young underclass Fort Mill area talent on this team. Getting these players into the program early is crucial to the long-term development of our program.”

When not playing at Lancaster’s Harvey Eggleton Field in the Fairgrounds, Fort Mill will have two games at Segra Park in Columbia, where they reached the S.C. American Legion state finals last season. Those two games will be against Lexington July 2 and defending state champions Greer July 21. They also will be hosting Chapin-Newberry and will be playing a game in Historic Riley Park in Sumter to end the regular season.

To listen to a preview of the season by John Turner, voice of Fort Mill Post 43, go to http://mixlr.com/fortmill/showreel/2020-preseason-show

Mac Banks: mac@fortmillprepsports.com, @fortprep