O’Hara, Grassi And Post 84; An Irish-Italian Wedding Or A Baseball Marriage Made In Heaven!
O’Hara, Grassi and Post 84 seems an unlikely combination, but just may be the best thing Upper Valley Legion Baseball has seen in quite some time. Amid all of the attrition from sports and Legion Baseball, Hartford Coach Jarrod Grassi has decided to make some unprecedented changes.
New Team, New Look
Formerly, Hartford Post 26 and Hartford Legion, the new alignment is a conglomeration of multiple communities that will be called Post 84 Legion Baseball. Although the Hartford program last summer was highly successful, only losing in the State Finals, Grassi, with the help of Coach John O’Hara, wants to ‘kick it up’ a notch.
When asked about the change in philosophy and venue Grassi replied, ” In order to grow our program outside of our town, we need to adapt and change. Post 84 is heavily active with the youth within our communities through various organizations (VA, The Haven, Hartford school Dist.) We have dropped the “Hartford” from our name and have become “Post 84″. We hope this change will be recognized by our neighboring towns so that they will give us a chance to provide them with an exciting, competitive and, most of all, fun baseball experience”.
In accord with the new look and philosophy, players will be actively recruited from Windsor, Woodstock, Thetford, So. Royalton, Oxbow and anywhere else within the American Legion territorial restrictions.
“It’s all about the kids and what’s good for Legion Baseball”, said Grassi. “Legion is definitely a notch above high school ball, talent wise, and you need the players, especially pitchers, to be competitive”.
Introducing Coach John O’Hara; Baseball In His DNA!
Originally from Massachusetts, Coach O’Hara relocated to the Upper Valley several years ago. According to Erik Lesniak, Sales Manager for the New Hampshire Fishercats, “John O’Hara has baseball in his DNA!” Lesniak knows him from So. Hadley, Mass. where they both played ball. O’Hara was captain of his high school team in his junior and senior years, an All Western Mass second team selection in his junior year and first team his senior year. He was also a multiple scholarship award winner for both baseball and football. “He was an outstanding
ball player”, says Lesniak,”who translated his knowledge of the game and ability to manage people into an
effective and successful coaching style.”
When O’Hara moved to the Upper Valley, he was looking to help out with the local baseball team. Grassi knew that he was available and asked him to get involved with the program. In his first season with the team, they went all the way to the state finals. “It was nice to be a part of that experience”, says O”Hara, “we’ve got a great nucleus for the team next year but we need to get the surrounding communities involved to really take it to the next level.” Well liked and respected by the staff, players and parents, O’Hara’s enthusiasm is infectious and has been the transfusion Grassi was looking for.
Announcing The New Junior Legion Team
Along with the changes comes the addition of a Junior Legion team which will be formed this year. O’Hara was emphatic about the new sibling. “If you look at the successful programs throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, they all have several things in common, and one of them is a strong junior program”.
He continued, “This gives players and parents the opportunity to be involved with and support the program for six years, puts players at the proper level for their ability and age, increases player development, but most importantly, creates a talent pool and ‘feeder program’ for the Senior Team.”
“That’s the most exciting component for us as coaches. We get to develop a player for as much as six years and we know exactly where he fits in the program”. Another benefit to having the ‘little brother’ is that it doubles the number of people involved in the program. The more help the better!
An additional aspect that successful programs have in common is, “They draw players from all over their territory which gives them the opportunity to reach out to businesses and Legion Posts in those areas. These programs will spend as much as $45,000.00 in a single season so the more sources you have to draw from the better off you are.”
O’Hara has specific expectations about how the business aspect of the team should be run. “A successful legion baseball program can’t be run from April until August. It’s a business, it has to be treated like a business, and it has to have a dedicated committee that meets and fundraises year round”.
“In order to raise that much money every year, you can’t expect that someone will just drop a huge chunk of change in your collection box. It takes a consistent, concerted effort, year round by more than just one person. If you look across the river at Post 22, or the Colchester Cannons or any of these other successful programs, they have people working on their fundraising drive year round. The money comes from various sources like golf tournaments, spaghetti suppers, raffles, donations from foundations, concession stands, programs, car washes……”
Enter Jeffery S. Holmes Post 84
According to Scott Holmes, Post 84 Athletic Director and Father to Jeffery S. Holmes whom the Post is named in honor of, Coach Grassi approached the Post about the possibility of sponsoring the team. In a subsequent Post meeting, Grassi and O’Hara made a presentation re: a possible sponsorship and…what the affiliation could mean for both parties. Sometime later in the meeting, Scott Holmes, made a motion that Post 84 approve the sponsorship based on the fact that it would help to bolster baseball in the area while also helping get recognition for the Post. “I see all positive things about the association”, said Holmes. “We could get some of vets at the VA and transport them to the games, and get some of the players to visit the hospital”.
Post 84 is a small post of only 52 members, but is long on community involvement. It’s a substance free post that has yet to establish it’s own location but meets at the VA in White River Jct. “Seeing as we’re such a small post and most of our members are scattered around the country with only a small nucleus in the White River area”, Holmes sees the merger as consistent with Legion philosophy for involvement with the local youth, but also as an opportunity to get new blood into the Legion.
A Win, Win, Win!
“It won’t all come together overnight,” admits O’Hara. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and communication, but once all the surrounding communities buy into this program, we’ll have a better team… but more importantly, we’ll have a better program and will be able to provide better instruction and a better baseball environment for the players”.
“And it’s not just about the baseball,” Grassi contends, “it’s about the whole experience…the friends you make, the time you spend with your fellow players and family and the memories that will last a lifetime. We want this to be the best experience these kids will ever have!”
Sounds like they’ve got something going!