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  • Writer's pictureHugo Traverso


The Post 43 Jackson Giants are hosting the Wyoming AA American Legion State Baseball Tournament from July 26 - 29 at Giant Field in Jackson. This tournament will decide the State’s best 19U team and send that team off to the regionals to chase greatness. In Regionals, Region 7, the Northwest Region which is played in Gillette, will host the Wyoming State Champ and 6 other state champions from states in the Northwest like Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and Washington in a double elimination tournament to see who will advance to the American Legion World Series. Last year the Northwest Regional was also hosted in Gillette, Wyoming by Post 42 and the Idaho Falls Bandits from Post 56 beat out Cheyenne Post 6 to advance to the American Legion World Series which is played in Shelby, North Carolina at John Henry Moss Stadium, home to the Division 1 Gardner Webb University Runnin’ Bulldogs. Idaho Falls made it to the Championship Game, but fell to Troy, Alabama in an exciting nailbiter of a game.

These tournaments give players a chance to improve their stock amongst college and pro scouts by playing well and showing their love and passion for the game of baseball. The Northwest Region includes states with no baseball colleges so these State and Regional Tournaments give them a chance to show college coaches why they should be able to play on their teams. These players rarely get buzz because they live in states with snowy Winters and sludgy Springs and with Universities and High Schools that can’t afford or don’t have the scheduling time to have a baseball team. The closest College Baseball team to Jackson is the Division I University of Utah Utes of the PAC 12 and their stadium, Smith’s Ballpark is a 4 and a half hour drive away.

The history of baseball in Wyoming is very interesting with most of its records starting with a prison team. In 1911, the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins, Wyoming founded a baseball team of the most violent criminals, all of whom were condemned to death. The team called the Wyoming State Penitentiary All Stars were a team of the most hardened inmates on death row, but somehow, they were great at baseball. From March 1911 to May 1912, the team of inmates won 39 of their 45 games and made it to the Amateur League Western Division Championship that featured teams from the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Pacific Coast. The team was promised to have their execution dates pushed back if they kept winning, but when the team folded, they all faced their executions.

By the early 1900s, the University of Wyoming had their own team and by 1930, they had sent a player to the Major Leagues. Bob Linton made it to the National League at 27 years old and played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1929. Despite only taking 18 at-bats, he paved the way for 33 other Cowboys to get drafted and five more University of Wyoming big leaguers. Despite having five NCAA Regional appearances and one College World Series appearance along with successful big league alums like Art Howe and Jeff Huson, the University of Wyoming Baseball Program ceased operations in 1996. However, that doesn’t mean there have been no other successful MLB players from Wyoming. Tom Browning hailed from Casper and played 11 years in the bigs as a starting pitcher accumulating 1,921 innings pitched with 1000 strikeouts and had one All Star appearance in 1991 to go with his World Series ring that he won with the Cincinnati Reds in 1990. John Buck is from Kemmerer, Wyoming and played 10 years in the bigs from 2004 to 2014 for multiple teams while racking up 844 hits, 134 home runs and a career 25% runner caught stealing percentage as a catcher, throwing out over 160 runners over his career. Mike Devereaux, from Casper, had a great career in the Major Leagues and helped the 1995 Atlanta Braves win the World Series by being a star for the team in the National League Championship Series and winning the MVP for the NLCS. Dick Ellsworth, from Lusk, Wyoming, had a prosperous 13 year career that spanned 3 decades (the 50s, 60s and 70s), with 1 All Star appearance and a fantastic career Earned Run Average of 3.72 with over 1100 strikeouts.

The most successful and famous player, however, to come out of the great State of Wyoming, is Brandon Nimmo, a current star on the New York Mets, who brought a lot of popularity to the state’s American Legion Baseball scene and the sport. Nimmo is from Cheyenne and played on the famous American Legion Post 6 Cheyenne Baseball team. He was so good that he was drafted in the 2011 Draft 13th Overall out of East High School in Cheyenne by the Mets, and 5 years later, he made it to the Big Leagues as a New York Met. He made his name known by batting .274 in his first 32 games in the big leagues. Since then, he has become the everyday starting Centerfielder for the New York Mets. As of right now, (July 21st, 2023), he is batting .261 with an OPS+ (his On base percentage+slugging percentage compared to the rest of the league. Over 100 means said player is better than most of the league) of 123 and has bashed 14 home runs with 44 runs batted in. He has made an amazing contribution to the Mets over the past 7 years and currently has a career WAR (Wins above Replacement) of 19.6 which is the 18th best in Mets history. Nimmo is by far the best to come out of Wyoming, will have an incredible career and when he retires, if he stays a Met, will be one of the greatest Mets of all time.

The Jackson Giants are the 6th seed in the upcoming tournament and are led by Manager and American Legion Hall of Famer Jason Huggins, who has won more than 300 games at the helm for the Giants. The Giants are a strong team with incredible players like Yakima Valley College baseball commit shortstop Trayson Kostial, Catcher Ayden Gralund and Left Fielder Matthew Fisher. The Giants have played teams throughout the west including Premier West from Colorado, Green Canyon from Utah, Nampa from Idaho, Bozeman from Montana and many more. The Giants have also traveled around the state facing every AA team in the state of Wyoming before starting conference play where they would face teams from across the state. They have home field advantage which can benefit them especially because they know the teams they are playing against and don’t have to travel far for the tournament. Coach Huggins had this to say about his focus heading into the tournament: “Main focus, obviously, is win game 1… You can’t worry about game 2 until after that [Game 1], and that’s been our approach ever since I’ve been here. It’s just handling game 1 and worry about there. Once there, then you can worry about game 2… At a state tournament, you can’t look ahead, you can kind of set out a plan, but I got to be honest with you, you got to handle the game that’s in front of you.”

Huggins has been coaching the Giants for over a decade and this is what he had to say while reflecting on the season: “We get a new set of kids every year and when I say new set, the team always looks different year to year. Except for this last 2 years, last year we had no graduating Seniors so we brought back essentially the same team this year and to see 9 of our players graduate was pretty special for me.” Huggins’ son, Aaron Huggins is one of those graduating seniors and Huggins had this to say about coaching his son: “My son graduated out of the program this year. I can remember when he was riding the bus with me when he was just super super tiny. And so to see him go through, from day 1 that I’ve been here to now has been pretty special for me. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.” Huggins had this to say about the culture he’s built: “Just over the years, seeing players come back, being able to talk to them and just see how they’ve grown up and have done successful things, or some of them come back and help coach or come back and help mentor. We have built a really family cultured program here and for me that’s the most rewarding thing.”

The 40-20 Sheridan Troopers claimed the #1 overall seed in the tournament after splitting a series with the Cheyenne Sixers to put them 1 game ahead of the Post 6 Sixers in the Wyoming Standings. The Sixers are 55-14, but finished in League play 12-2, after losing their last game of the Regular Season to the Troopers who finished 13-1 in League. The Troopers will face #8 Rock Springs in the 1st Round Monday. Austin Cowen is the head coach of the Troopers and had this to say about his focus heading into the tournament: “Our main focus is the cliche, just take it one game at a time… So right now, we’re focused on just first round, Rock Springs, and that is it because at the state tournament, you can’t worry about tomorrow, you have to worry about getting to tomorrow, so we’re worrying about right now and just doing our best to strive to get to our peak and that’s the goal.” Sheridan are a favorite at this tournament to go all the way and will be a tough squad to beat.

David Settle has covered Wyoming High School Sports for over 2 decades and will be covering the State Tournament in Jackson for the website, a website that covers all Wyoming High School Sports News. He will also be broadcasting the games for the Laramie Rangers who have the 5 seed and will be playing the #4 seed Casper Oilers at 10 AM Monday. Settle has followed American Legion Baseball in Wyoming for a while and had this to say about its place in the state, “Legion Baseball in this state thrives. I’ve seen it grow and change and transform and there’s been some ebbs and flows in certain programs around the state, but it really is the backbone of baseball in this state.” He had this to say about American Legion baseball right now in the state: “I see good things right now when I see what’s happening in Legion Baseball. I think you’ve got a lot of good coaches and a lot of good people that have thoughts in the right direction (Growing the Sport of Baseball)” Settle talked a lot about the quality of baseball that will be seen at the Northwest Regional in Gillette this year: “If people can get to Gillette, you’re going to see some fantastic baseball.” Settle said this about what is in store for spectators at the tournament this year: “I think top to bottom, this year, is one of the most competitive years… Sheridan as the #1 seed is interesting… how do they handle being a hidden favorite? That’s a team that can hit the ball, they’ve got really good pitching. I’d say that they have 3 or 4 guys that are top line. But between Sheridan, Cheyenne Post 6 Sixers, I would throw Casper, Gillette, Laramie to a degree and even Jackson. I think you’ve got six teams that can easily say, if we can put it together, we can have a shot at this… You’ve got the potential with 8 teams, we’ve seen this the last few years, where top to bottom, you’re going to have some good games and there are going to be a couple surprises. In the end, I think Cheyenne and Gillette are still the 2 favorites, I think they’re the deepest, but I’m also not overlooking Sheridan because they proved in the conference games that they can get it done… I think Coach Austin Cowen has done a great job… when you have a hitting team like Sheridan has, that’s going to give them a shot.”

Jackson has a shot this year because they have something that pretty much no other team has: the same team they had last year. The Giants have 9 Seniors who know this might be their last ride not only as a Giant, but as a baseball player. The Giants have worked for 2 years as a group to get better and better and this is what it’s built up to. No exiting Seniors last year means more time for development for Coach Huggins. He has developed this team well and this team is hardworking. Matt Fisher and Ayden Gralund have been standout players for the Giants with Fisher having the most Player of the Game Awards and Gralund batting over .400, an impressive and difficult feat. Fisher said this about his focus heading into the tournament, “Just playing well, energy is high going into it so I’m looking forward to it.” Gralund said this about his focus heading into the tournament: “Keeping this team, all of their eyes on the end goal, the State Championship and just playing each game one game at a time and not worrying about the next. Just go get game 1 and focus after that.”

The State Tournament will start Monday at Giants Field which is just South of William T. McIntosh Field, the home of the Jackson Hole High School Broncs Football team, and tickets will be sold on After Casper and Laramie face off at 10 AM, Sheridan faces Rock Springs at 1 PM and following that, the Cheyenne Post 6 Sixers will play the recently reclassified Class A Cheyenne Hawks in an interprogram showdown. The night game will be at 7 PM between the host Jackson Giants and the #3 seeded Gillette Riders. Gillette and Cheyenne (Sixers) have been dominant forces in the Legion Baseball scene for a while, but can Sheridan or another team rival their dominance and win the double elimination tournament to head to Regionals? We’ll just have to find out.

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