Post 489 eager to take on the world

Staff Writer
Jeff Flegler knows about the Stop DWI World Youth Classic baseball tournament first-hand.
The coach of the Cortland American Legion Post 489 squad was, after all, a member of the Brooklawn (N.J.) Post 72 team that won the Binghamton-based event twice and finished second the other two years he was on the squad. In all, Brooklawn has won the championship six times, second only to Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, with seven, and is the defending champion of the event.
Now, Flegler wants his Cortland squad to be in on the fun — and it will be, starting Tuesday as the 25th edition of the tournament gets underway after being endangered by the recent flooding in the Southern Tier.
“I took over the team last year two weeks before the season started, and it was too late to enter,” said the former SUNY Cortland standout, who as a senior first baseman was the SUNY Athletic Conference and ECAC Player of the Year in 2003. “Last year in the District 6 Tournament, we eliminated Binghamton Post 1645, the host of the World Youth Classic,” he added, the  win en route to a third-place finish, without their starting catcher and right fielder. “I e-mailed their coach and said we were worthy of the Classic, and didn’t hear anything back until the third week in January. We had a place, but they needed the money in a week. We got it to him.”
Thus began a fundraising campaign that involved a number of events at the Cortland Legion, plus some other happenings, geared toward raising the $2,000 to $2,500 Flegler said the team will need as it stays in the Binghamton area for the duration of its time in the tourney.
The money was raised, and Flegler hopes his team’s stay lasts through next Sunday (July 9). There are four pools of six teams each in the event, with the top two from each advancing to the quarterfinals next Saturday. The semifinals are at noon and 3 p.m. July 9, with the championship game at 6 p.m. that day.
All four quarterfinal games, the two semifinals and the title contest are all slated for Binghamton’s Conlon Field, as are two of Cortland’s five preliminary-round games. All may have to be moved, as that facility was reportedly still underwater as of Friday. No further information was available at press time.
There are teams from Puerto Rico and Belgium in the tournament, plus Flegler’s old team, Brooklawn, as well as Portland, Maine and Severna Park, Maryland, where the Rangers’ Mark Teixeira played in his younger days.
The Cortland squad, with a record of 7-2 this season, opens its pool play (designated as Division III) against Endicott at 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Binghamton University. Post 489 is slated to go against State College, Pa. at noon Wednesday at Conlon Field before playing twice on Thursday, against Gibbsboro, N.J. at 9 a.m. at Binghamton U. and against Oneonta at 3 p.m., tentatively at Conlon Field. The final pool-play contest for Flegler’s squad will be against Kingston (N.Y.) at 3 p.m. Friday at Binghamton U.
“Being from New Jersey, I’ll have a scouting report on Gibbsboro,” he said. “I know Oneonta, which we beat in the Districts last year, and State College has been in the American Legion World Series the last five years. I’ll have something on Endicott, too.
“We hope to go 3-2 and have a shot at moving on; 4-1 and we definitely play on Saturday. We have a real good team,” he says, Homer’s Nick Triolo on board as an outfielder-pitcher-designated hitter. “With these guys, the sky’s the limit. We want to go down there and compete, not lay down for anyone. Winning the first game will be the key. Then we’ll have a little confidence and a little margin for error.”
As a WYC veteran, Flegler knows that it’s about a lot more than baseball.
“The kids have never experienced anything like this,” he said. “It will be a life experience for them, interacting with teams from all over the country and the world. A lot of pro and college scouts are there, too. It’s been going on for 25 years, and Cortland should have been in before now,” said Flegler, who was drafted by Toronto in the 41st round of the 1999 draft.
Post 489’s participation is just part of a remake of the squad that Flegler has in mind, which also includes, among other things, upgrading the schedule.
“I want the team to have nothing to do with Cortland High,” he said. “There are 19-year-olds on the team that don’t play in high school any more. I want us to have new uniforms (the current ones resemble Cortland High’s outfits), a different identity, and it will be taken care of for next year. I think kids like to put on a different uniform during the summer.”


Handball hosts need win to reach USA Cup finals

The United States National Handball Team will have to secure its first win to have a chance to capture the USA Cup that crowns a champion at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon at the SUNY Cortland Alumni Arena.
As round robin play concluded on Thursday, the host USA has an 0-4 overall record. That puts them in today’s 7 p.m. semifinal match in this three-team affair, which has the Canadian National team and a top division squad from The Netherlands competing.
On opening night at Alumni Arena, the USA lost 25-24 to The Netherlands and 29-22 to Team Canada. On Wednesday, the USA squad was beaten by Canada 31-14 and then fell to The Netherlands 33-23 on Thursday.
A friendly game at 5 p.m. precedes the 7 p.m. semifinal match this evening. There is a consolation friendly contest at 2 p.m. Sunday prior to the 4 o’clock title game.
The USA squad trains at SUNY Cortland and is looking to host the 2007 Pan-Am Championships.