I moved to Spokane in 1984, after growing up in the Yakima area. From the mid 1970’s through the summer of 1984 one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go to Parker Field and watch the Yakima Beetles American Legion Baseball team.
A couple of co-workers and I would attend 35 to 40 games a year, along with 800 to 1,000 other fans. The Beetles hosted several state and regional championships during that span, and the quality of play was outstanding.
One game I would like to talk about was not in a tournament setting. The Beetles were the first team in Washington to play an expanded schedule of 70 games before state, regional, and national championships were played, and power teams from all over the West would come to play.
One such game was played shortly before I moved my family to Spokane.
The other team was from Hayward, Calif. The San Diego Chicken was there, and had the crowd of 6,000-plus roaring. The grin never left my young son’s face all night.
The Beetles won that game by a score of 1-0. There were future college players at just about every position for both teams. The Beetles’ pitcher was Todd Stottlemyre, son of the Yankee great Mel, who went on to play seven or eight years in the majors.
Hayward’s pitcher was pretty good as well, and went on to win a few games in the majors himself. His name was Randy Johnson.
Take the time to watch some of the national American Legion baseball tournament. You may see a future batting champion, gold-glove outfielder, or a Cy Young- winning, mortal- lock, first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.