Proactive approach lifts Legion program

Manager Bob Cote knew he had to take action when he took over the Fairfield Junior American Legion Post 143 baseball program in the summer of 2012.
The long-time AAU coach knew he just couldn’t announce tryout dates and hope for the best — Cote had to be proactive.
“We had to take the bull by the horns and talk to the players individually,” said Cote, who along with assistant Kevin Keys and general manager Sars Ford put their boots to the ground.
“We had to tell each player what Legion offers, a chance to play at the highest competitive level alongside their friends and high school rivals. And, that they could team up with the best players from their town to do something special.”
After putting things in place and increasing participation, the watershed moment for the program came this summer.
“We told them that playing Legion ball in Zone IV was an extension of their high school season,” Cote said. “It was an opportunity to play against the best teams in the state and do it right here in their own county. We said we were in this together.”
Boasting players from Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde, Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame of Fairfield, the locals put together a 19-8 regular season.
Fairfield finished third in Zone IV behind Norwalk (22-5) and Trumbull (20-7) and ahead of Stamford (18-9).
The state tournament was divided into two divisions, Northern and Southern, and each of the Zone IV teams advanced when play began on July 29.
Three of the teams made it to the Southern Division semifinals — Fairfield, Trumbull and Norwalk.
Fairfield defeated Naugatuck 10-5 and Trumbull 12-9 to gain the final opposite RCP, which went 3-0 and outscored its foes 17-0 in the Northern Division.
Fairfield made it six straight state wins with a 6-0 victory over RCP (Rocky Hill, Cromwell, Portland) to earn a berth in the Northeast Regionals on Aug. 9 in South Windsor.
“The reason we love Legion ball and playing in Zone IV is because it prepares you for states,” Cote said. “Meeting Trumbull to get to the final was another Zone battle. It was a long game with lots of highs and lows.
“Our team gets it. They’ve been around the block together and understand what it takes. Whatever happens, they reset and get after it.”

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