Columbia Heights has fielded a Legion baseball team this summer for the first time in over a decade, playing under the name Tri-City Gold.
Tri-City Gold coach Matt Birr said having Legion baseball back is an opportunity for the Hylanders players to grow their skills, have fun and “represent Columbia Heights the best way they know how.”
Birr, who played for the Hylanders in the 2000s before graduating in 2008, said Columbia Heights didn’t have a Legion team when he played in high school. The Hylanders had co-oped with St. Anthony Village for Legion baseball for years as Tri-City Blue, but numbers increased enough for this year to field a team.
Birr said a couple of parents of players have guided a core of 7-8 players throughout youth baseball into the high school levels. Birr added that those parents have helped the players keep an enthusiasm for the game.
“It’s been amazing to watch those kids grow,” Birr said. “They’ve all had a taste of high school baseball whether it’s junior varsity or varsity since the seventh or eighth grade.”
Many of the Tri-City Gold players helped the Hylanders win their VFW District title last summer.
Graduated seniors stuck around to play for Gold this summer. That includes Ben Rogotzke, who will play football at St. Olaf College this fall, Amir Davis, who will play junior college basketball in Arizona, and Aiden Smertneck, who plans to play college baseball at St. Scholastica.
Gold has a solid pitching rotation of Aaron Severson, Connor Hogg and Jaeger Kaiser. Birr said Severson continues to be the go-to player for Gold. The team has a 4-8 record so far this spring through Monday.
“We’ve struggled a little bit,” Birr said.
Gold faced bigger schools than the Hylanders do in the spring season. Gold played Richfield, Spring Lake Park, Prior Lake, Austin and a Rochester team.
“It’s been good for them,” Birr said about the challenge.
Gold has help on the way with star player Isaac Becker back from plaing baseball showcases in the south.
“You can tell he’s been playing a lot of baseball and is swinging the bat well for us,” Birr said.
Tri-City Gold plays at the Division II level of Legion baseball for the playoffs but will have a tall order in the postseason. Their sub state field includes Giantvalley, which consists of Class 2A state baseball power Minnehaha Academy.
“I think our kids are ready for that,” Birr said.
He added that the Hylanders varsity season falling short in the section tournament last spring also has Gold players hungry.
“They’re chomping at the bit,” Birr said.