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Nansemond Post 88 has new tribe

Nansemond Post 88’s junior division baseball squad is the defending state champion. The Indians went through last summer with a 24-1 record, including four straight wins in the Virginia Junior American Legion Tournament to finish in late July.

Now, a few days away from the start of a new American Legion season, the Nansemond Indians are starting almost from scratch.

In a way, it’s nothing new. Last year was the first time Post 88 fielded a team and all of the Indians were rookies to Legion competition.

“This is mostly the JV team from Nansemond River this spring,” said Post 88’s new head coach, Paul Riggs.

“We’ve got three returning kids on the team, each with one game, about seven innings each, of experience from last year,” Riggs said.

Almost all of last summer’s team became this spring’s Nansemond River varsity team. The Warriors have formed a Tidewater Summer League team this summer. The Tidewater Summer League is a wooden bat league for high school and college players.

Nansemond River’s varsity team was largely a young group, with a sophomore-dominated roster, meaning the JV team, and now Post 88, is really young.

Post 88’s oldest kids are 15. The junior division of American League allows players up to age 17.

“We’re going to try and hold our own. We’ll be trying to do a lot of teaching as our kids are coming to (Legion) out of rec ball,” Riggs said.

Riggs played baseball at Cradock and in semi-pro leagues. He’s been coaching for “well over 22 years.”

“The main thing is to have kids see when they’re successful. I try to teach the positive and get out of being negative,” Riggs said.

Riggs is “pleased and honored” Gerald Rhoads of Post 88 brought him in to coach the team.

The coach obviously wants to teach baseball skills, but there’s more to American Legion teams.

“The main reason behind American Legion ball is to teach about our country and our flag. Veterans put this on and make this possible, so we’re trying to teach the kids what it means to have unity for our country,” Riggs said.

“All Legion teams promote no profanity and good sportsmanship. It’s a good program for kids coming up. It’s my first year coaching it, but from everything I’ve read, a lot of good values are given to the kids,” Riggs said.

Back to what the Indians will be doing on the field, Riggs knows he could have this group largely intact for two or three seasons.

At the same time, more of this group of Indians could make it to the high school’s varsity team by next spring.

“We’re looking for a very productive season, and not just by wins and losses. If a player gains knowledge and experience from playing Legion ball, if he can go on and be better next season, that means he’s gained a lot,” Riggs said.

Nansemond Post 88 starts with a home game, at Nansemond River, on Tuesday, June 1 against Newport News Post 368.