New state director shares vision for American Legion baseball
Minnesota American Legion baseball elected a new leader at its recent fall meeting.
Former Hopkins general manager and Tenth District director Mike Perry replaces Darwin Berg of Chaska, who held the state director’s position for nine years.
“Darwin did a great job,” said Excelsior’s Jim Peck, the state 16-year-old Legion baseball director. “Mike will be a lot like Darwin. He will put a lot of time and effort into the program.”
Jim Donohue of Edina, the former South Hennepin Legion League director, said, “Mike is hard-working and well-organized. I always trusted him to make the right decision. He will do a good job at the state level.”
Third District baseball director Bruce Young of Apple Valley said, “I don’t know Mike that well yet, but I know he is very competent. He will be a good leader for the Legion program. I have seen how hard Mike works during the state Legion tournament. You can count on him being at the field from early morning until they turn the lights out.”
The 2013 season will mark Perry’s 24th year as an American Legion baseball volunteer.
He started at the grass-roots level in Hopkins when his son Ryan played in the program.
“I was the team’s general manager and an assistant coach, as well,” said Perry. “I became familiar with the ideals and principles of Legion baseball and also the set of rules we play by.”
After making his mark in Hopkins, Perry was elected South Hennepin League director. Several years later, he was named Tenth District Legion baseball director, a position he held for nine years.
Perry, a retired sales executive for Josten’s, Inc., takes over prior to a transitional season for the Minnesota program.
From the 1920s to last year, Legion baseball in Minnesota was divided into 11 districts. Each district was represented at the state tournament.
That will change for the 2013 season. The playoff structure will now include 15 sub-state tournaments. The champion of each, along with the host team, will advance to the state tournament.
“With the new playoff system, it will be winner-take-all,” said Perry. “I have a vision that each of the 15 sub-state playoffs will begin on July 25 and conclude Sunday, July 29. It could be Super Sunday in Legion baseball.”
Minnesota Legion baseball is divided into two classes – Division I for large high school attendance areas and Division II for smaller high schools.
“The reason we changed from district to sub-state tournaments was inequality between districts,” said Perry. “One district had 39 teams, one had four. Under the new system, each sub-state [Division I] tournament will include 9-10 teams. Every team will be involved in the playoffs. Like anything else, when you propose major changes, not everyone will agree with them.”
Coaches throughout Minnesota are perusing the proposed sub-state alignments this week prior to final certification.
Perry proved when he was Tenth District director that he valued input from coaches and league directors. He plans to follow the same path at the state level.
“As state director, I want to work through district directors and league directors,” he said. “We have approximately 1,000 coaches on 321 teams.”
In 2012 Minnesota ranked second behind Pennsylvania in the number of registered Legion teams. Figures showed Pennsylvania leading the way with 364 clubs. Nebraska was third with 284.
Perry said one of his responsibilities as state director is to make sure communication flows from top to bottom. He will share all important dates, such as due dates for rosters and insurance and the timeline for completing sub-state tournaments.
In his first year, Perry will rely on advisors such as Peck and Berg to make sure he has his ducks in a row.
“Mike will do a great job,” said Peck. “He makes good decisions and will keep the program going in the right direction.”
Perry is happy to have Peck in his corner.
“Jim has been around since Abner Doubleday, and he knows everyone at the state and national levels of Legion baseball,” said Perry.
Going into his new position, Perry said Berg would be a tough act to follow.
“Darwin did a great job for nine years,” he said. “He will be with the program as director emeritus, and that should help make it a smooth transition.”