SPRINGFIELD – The area’s amateur baseball scene took a big step forward in positioning itself as a force in American Legion with the announcement that the Eugene Challengers and Springfield Timbers were merging to form one American Legion Baseball program in Lane County. Both Boards of Directors had approved the merger in late December.
Fans, meet the Emerald Challengers.
American Legion baseball teams have always been subject to high school enrollment caps to keep teams organized fairly and competitive in their respective regions. The enrollment caps required Lane County to have two separate American Legion teams, each with roughly the same size area from which to draw its teams. The Eugene Challengers drew from Eugene and west Lane County high schools and Springfield Timbers from Springfield and south and east Lane County.
In Fall 2021, the national American Legion Baseball leadership voted to increase the enrollment cap. The expanded cap opened the door for the two Lane County teams to discuss a single program’s benefits for baseball players in the area.
“By combining our organizations, we can include ball players from all over Lane County and create a stronger program,” said Dale Hartley, Emerald Challengers board president. “Rather than divvying up talent across two teams, a single Lane County team will be competitive year over year for state, regional and even national titles.”
The Emerald Challengers will field two teams – a triple-A team with participants aged 15-19 and a single-A or developmental team with participants aged 15-17.
This merger just makes sense, and it’s the right thing to do for the great game of baseball in our area.” adds Rico Lea, former president and general manager of the Springfield Timbers and new Emerald Challengers board member. “We want to create the best opportunities for our young men to play at the highest level and open doors for athletes to play the sport they love after high school.”
The Challengers AAA team hosts invite-only tryouts in late May.