La PORTE — There's no substitute for experience.
That's essentially the mantra La Porte Post 83 Hamon Gray, an American Legion Junior Division baseball team, lives by.
Post 83, featuring players from La Porte, Michigan City and South Central high schools, is striving to have a robust summer campaign while at the same time developing players.
"It's a great opportunity for the kids to get some quality playing time to try and better themselves," La Porte coach Kevin McGuire said. "That's the ultimate goal."
There's 15 total players on the 17-year-old-and-under squad, which is in its second year.
Eight players on Post 83 played on La Porte's JV baseball team this past season. Four are from Michigan City and one is from South Central, in addition to two from La Porte who didn't play prep baseball this spring.
“My goal during the regular season is try to give everybody equal playing time,” McGuire said. “And as coaches, just try and decide and figure out what players and in what positions gives us the best chance to win. It's not about the wins and losses right now, it's just trying to develop the best we can so we put the best team on the field when it comes to the state tournament.”
One of the team's main objectives is to advance to the state tournament and possibly make a deep run.
“We've got a few kids around us who have played in the regional," McGuire said. "To make the state tournament would be a great opportunity for the boys.”
To qualify for the state tournament, La Porte has to win a single-elimination regional tournament among four or five other northwest Indiana teams.
McGuire added the coaches will lean on a few players to guide the team, Collin Howard and Seth Kupres, both who'll be juniors for La Porte next spring.
“There's really no one player who sticks out as the leader of the team yet,” McGuire said. “Hopefully, that will develop. We're still gelling. We've only had two-and-a-half weeks of practice at this point, so the kids have only been together for a couple of games. There's a good core group of La Porte kids.”
The coach added the squad brought in four players from Michigan City's team, two from South Central's JV team, and a few players who are referred to as 'walk-ons' because they didn't play high school baseball, including Kupres.
McGuire said Nick Lemon from Michigan City, who played varsity as a freshman, stands out to him due to his demeanor.
“He always has a smile on his face and he's always trying to pick the kids up," McGuire said.
Other players from City on the team are Luke Swistek, Alex Contreas and Luke Poulin.
La Porte Post 83's primary pitchers will be Caleb McGuire, coach McGuire's son, Lemon and Contreas. Similar to Indiana high school baseball, there's a pitch-count rule for pitchers.
"They've been very consistent," coach McGuire said. "Not a lot of walks, they throw a lot of strikes. Caleb has found a curveball, so he was able to throw that with some pretty good efficiency. The starting pitchers, that's really what it comes down to."
Other players on the team are La Porte High School's Evan Cizewski, Nathan Galinowski, Cayden George, Dom Miller, Spencer Noveroske, and Riley Attar. Noah Christian is a 'walk-on' from La Porte. The player on the squad from South Central is Andrew Huizar.
“It's a 17-and-under team and the kids have the opportunity to play on many travel teams throughout the area,” coach McGuire said. "It's a great opportunity for them to get to gel more as a team. To have eight of the 15 JV players, it's good for the JV team. We work closely with the La Porte High School coaches. They know what's going on. They're big proponents of the program.”
La Porte Post 83 won its first two contests, beating Valparaiso Post 94 Green 10-4 last Monday and Chesterton Post 170, 23-3, last Wednesday. La Porte tallied a combined 33 runs in its first two games.
Last weekend, La Porte Post 83 went 0-4 in Kokomo at the Post 6 Summer's First Pitch Tournament. One of the teams it fell to was Kokomo, a team comprised of mostly all varsity high school players.
Despite that loss, coach McGuire likes facing high-caliber opponents.
“Any time my team gets a opportunity to play against competition like that, it's always a great way to try and improve yourself,” he said. “The best way to get better at baseball is to just have more experience.”
Post 83 returns home at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to meet Post 170 at Ron Reed Field in a pair of seven-inning games.