Jim Moran had a wad of dollar bills in one hand and a sack full of hamburgers in the other.

Jim Moran had a wad of dollar bills in one hand and a sack full of hamburgers in the other.
The volunteers running the gate at the 2009 American Legion Missouri State Tournament at Hidden Valley Park were in need of change, and some food, so Moran made sure they received both.
Moran is the manager of Blue Springs Post 499/Fike, the host team for this year’s state tournament.
And putting on a tournament with just four teams should be a breeze, since Moran and his Fike baseball family played host to the annual 40-team American Legion Wood Bat Invitational at several area sites every summer since 1989.
“We can pull this off, thanks to a great group of volunteers and the folks at the American Legion,” Moran said. “I just wish we had a local team playing in the tournament.
“If we did, I think we’d have a lot more local interest and could make some more money. Although the teams we have seem to be drawing in quite a few fans.”
The closest team is the Post 642 Travelers from Sedalia, Mo., who downed the two-time defending state champion Blue Springs Rod’s Sports Athletics to earn a berth in the state tourney.
Sedalia is joined by Festus Post 253, the West Jaguars from O’Fallon and the West Plains Merchants from West Plains.
“They have host teams at the zone tournament and at the national regional tournament, but they don’t have a host team at the state tournament,” Moran said. “I think we should have a host team for several reasons – including local interest, an increase in the gate revenue and more publicity for American Legion Baseball.
“It’s something I’m going to bring up to the American Legion State Board.”
Moran, his coaching staff, some members of his team and family members will volunteer the next three days at the state tournament.
“They’re all used to it, because of the Wood Bat,” Moran said. “We have Ann (Taylor) and Dee (Keele) working the gate and one of my players, Stephen Montisano, and one of his friends came and worked on the infield today, dragging it by hand.
“I’m just so lucky to have coaches, parents and players who are willing to get involved in activities like this. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
Longtime Hi-Boy Drive-In/Post 340 manager Gary Stone, who retired at the end of the 2008 season, is one of two Zone 2 baseball commissioners. He and the other Zone 2 commissioner and members of the American Legion Baseball Board will be in attendance at all the state games at Hidden Valley Park.
Stone said he understands why Moran and other Legion managers believe a host team should be added to the four-team state field.
“Until about four or five years ago, they had a host team,” Stone explained. “Then they moved the state tournament to a centralized place – Sedalia – and felt like a host team was no longer necessary.
“Then, the state tournament conflicted with the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, so they started moving it around.”
The last two years the state tournament was in Washington, Mo., and Jefferson City. The Blue Springs Rod’s A’s won both of those tournaments.
“It would be nice to have a local team here, and we’ve been fortunate that the Fifth District is so strong that the area has been well represented at state,” Stone said.
“But the reasoning behind not having a host team is that you want the four best teams – and you don’t want a team in the state tournament that isn’t as competitive as the other teams. It’s just there because it’s the host team.”
When asked about making a change, Stone said, “We’re expecting something like that. We have eight American Legion commissioners and a director, so we’ll see what happens following the presentation.
“I can see some good things about it, and I can see why the change was made. We just want to do what’s best for the players and American Legion Baseball.”
The tournament continues today with games at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. The championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday with a second game – if necessary – starting at approximately 4 p.m.

AMERICAN LEGION
STATE AAA TOURNAMENT
At Hidden Valley Park
Festus Post 253 5, Sedalia Post 642 Travelers 0
West Plains Merchants 5, West O’Fallon Jaguars 3
Today’s Schedule
1 p.m. — Festus Post 642 vs. West Plains
4 p.m. — Sedalia Post 642 vs. West O’Fallon
7 p.m. — 1 p.m. loser vs. 4 p.m. winner
Saturday
1 p.m. — Friday 1 p.m. winner vs. Friday 4 p.m. winner
4 p.m. — Another game if needed