Brookston Legion baseball team finishes first season in six yearsIn 2003, Travis Paulson helped Brookston’s American Legion baseball team to a state tournament.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
In 2003, Travis Paulson helped Brookston’s American Legion baseball team to a state tournament.
Six years later, he’s the coach, and has guided a resurrected program to a .500 finish in district play – after not having a team fielded since that state entry.
Brookston finished its season with a 10-12 overall record, including 10-10 in district play.
“That’s not bad considering we haven’t had a team in six years,” Paulson said.
The team fielded a rather surprising 15 players this season, including 11 from Paulson’s AlBrook varsity. Two players were from Cotton and two others were from Floodwood.
“They all helped,” Paulson said. “We had lots of kids who wanted to play and it was a good season. We have a lot of young kids coming up, and we hope to be around for awhile.”
Interest in a Legion team grew during the baseball spring season.
“We had four kids from our varsity team last year that played at Carlton, and came to me in April and asked if I would coach,” Paulson said. “That’s how it started. Now we have people asking about next year and it’s good to have the program back.”
In the playoffs, Brookston defeated Cook County 10-6 in their first game before losing a walk-off 3-2 contest to Ely.
“We were up 2-1 going into the last of the seventh but we made two throwing errors in a row and they beat us,” Paulson said. “That was a hard loss, but we played well.”
Brookston then lost 5-4 to Chisholm and was eliminated from the tournament.
“On the positive side, we had people who have watched a lot of baseball telling us how well we played,” Paulson said. “It was nice to get compliments for the players.”
AlBrook’s Bryce Karppinen led the pitching staff with six of the team’s 10 wins. Offensively, Zack Heggedahl of Floodwood led the team with a .415 batting average.
There were other gaudy hitters too – Justin Hall batted .392, AlBrook’s Cody Anderson hit .396, and Cotton’s Dan Wood hit .362.
“We scored a lot of runs,” Paulson said. “It was lots like a high school season in that regard. We needed better defense.”
More important was individual player growth, which is vital to long-term success.
“The kids gained a lot of experience,” Paulson said. “Chisholm and Ely had college players and sometimes we were facing college pitchers. That’s big, and the kids did fine. They hit the ball, and they battled.”
Paulson is hopeful that the summer’s positive experience will help keep the program viable in the long term.
“Overall I think Legion ball is great,” he said. “If you want a good program, you have to start there and with VFW, and since we don’t have a VFW team around here, you have to start somewhere.
“It’s hard to have a successful team just playing a high school season. That’s why Ely is so good and why BEST has their good years. They all play Legion ball in Ely. You have to have a Legion team if you want to be successful more than every couple of years.”