American Legion Fastpitch Softball caps off inaugural season in Mankato

Published: Jul. 31, 2022 at 11:05 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Over the weekend, Jaycee Park in Mankato hosted the Minnesota American Legion Fastpitch Softball State Tournament. Luann McMahn, member of the fastpitch softball committee, joined KEYC News Now to talk about the historic season.

Mary Rominger: Luann, why Mankato to help launch the first ever season of fastpitch softball under the American Legion in the state?

Luann McMahn: Last fall, our veterans throughout the state that belong to the American Legion approved for us to have softball, really excited about that. So, we looked at where we could have a host throughout the state. 96 years ago, American Legion baseball had their first state tournament here in Mankato. We said ‘We’re going to go back to Mankato’ and this time it’s for the girls.

MR: You mention American Legion baseball, our viewers have seen highlights of the baseball American Legion season this summer, how important is it for that opportunity to extend to softball players?

LM: Correct, and the passion that these girls have had throughout the year just of having this opportunity throughout the state, it’s tremendous response. So, what it means to them is that they finally have that equal opportunity to play ball. Not all families can afford these fees to go out and be apart of some teams. What makes it unique for the American Legion is, one of the four pillars of their foundation is children and youth, so they have that opportunity to raise funs and donate it towards these type of programs to help our children and youth have accessibility to programs throughout the state.

MR: Accessibility and also a place to help build the characters of these young athletes and establish values. There is something you recite at the beginning of every softball game, what else, in addition to that, are you guys doing to help build up these athletes?

LM: Several communities, what you’ll see, is the legions work hand in hand with their athletes and teams. One of the things there, you look at the mental health, how much it helps these girls, they have a place now within their communities to meet veterans and work with them to raise the funds to show they care about them and that’s going to be something that builds the community connection for them and it makes them feel like this is my home.

MR: Now, when you look in the future, all of the work that has already been put in by you and the other committee members, but what direction are we headed in trying to build this league into something bigger than what it is now in it’s inaugural season?

LM: There’s always that hesitation in that first year to join a new league, but we had over 20 teams throughout the state that took a chance on us. We’re really proud of a program that we built within our softball program to truly make this sport accessible to all female athletes throughout the state, it’s a 19U program and our legions run different operations in every city some of them have a building and a meeting place, but some of them do not. So, they don’t have that extra funding, so what we’ve done is created an adopt-a-team program. What this allows for is, say a Mankato post has extra funding, they can sponsor two teams and outside of Mankato there may be a small town with no active legion post, but they have a softball team. We can have Mankato sponsor that team. We’re truly making it accessible to all the girls throughout the state no matter what size of town they come from or the funding that their legion has. It really brings every together to give the opportunity to the girls.

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