American Legion Baseball has a rich tradition in San Diego. Local teams won the National American Legion Baseball Championship in 1938, 1941 and 1954 and were runners-up in 1940 and 1952. Now, after more than 30 years absence, American Legion Baseball has returned to San Diego County. Peter-Rolf Ohnstad, a former Navy pilot, took the controls and organized a 13-team league by recruiting the participation of high school coaches and their players.
In the 1980s, Madison High School baseball coach, Rob Lovato, played legion ball for legendary Ernie Beck at Clairemont High School. Today, Lovato’s sons, Adam and Ryan, play for Madison High and for the Hawkeyes, the school’s legion team sponsored by American Legion Post 731 (Linda Vista).
With the exception of Coronado, all of the team nicknames are Navy and Marine Corps aircraft: Hawkeyes, Tomcats, Hornets, Panthers, etc. Appropriately, the Coronado team is called the SEALS.
During regular season play on July 3, Post 731 came from behind to beat the league-leading Helix Hornets, 4-3, for the Hawkeyes’ first win of the season.
While his mates were making appropriate statements about teamwork and sportsmanship, Madison shortstop Anthony Villegas was to the point. “We won, because we had our whole team for the first time.”
On July 19, the District 22 Legion tournament for San Diego teams was won by San Dieguito Post 416 Patrick Henry Trojans. The Trojans beat Kearny Mesa Post 460 Coronado SEALS, 7-5, in the title game. Because San Diego has the biggest league in the state, both teams advanced to the state championship tournament held July 26 through July 29 in Yountville, California.
2018 Linda Vista American Legion Post 731 Hawkeyes baseball team (photo by Bill Swank)
Wearing his uniform from 1954, National American Legion Player of the Year Billy Capps threw the ceremonial first pitch of the District 22 tournament (photo by Dave Ellrod)