LONGMONT — Gone are the days when Silver Creek High School baseball players had to scramble to find ways to stay on the field and play during the summer months.

For the first time in nearly a decade, Silver Creek has returned to the Colorado American Legion Baseball scene. As excited as the Silver Creek players are to have a place they can continue to play after the spring season ends, head coach Mike Apodaca is equally thrilled to have them playing together to help build for the next high school season.

"I'd like to think that it's the springboard to the spring," Apodaca said. "All of the high school teams are trying to work with and around the competitive club teams. But we'd like to keep everyone together in the summer to help them get a feel for playing together and for how we coach."

Apodaca said it has been eight or nine years since Silver Creek had an American Legion summer team. For the summer of 2015, Silver Creek will have Legion A, B and C teams, all of which Apodaca will oversee himself. Each head coach of the summer baseball teams, led by Ryan Hewitt coaching the Legion A team, is an assistant for the Silver Creek varsity in the spring.

Silver Creek joins other local schools such as Boulder, Centaurus, Fairview and Monarch that all have American Legion programs. Despite one or two of his elite players inevitably going elsewhere to play with showcase clubs and baseball academies this summer, Apodaca said 80 percent of his returning players are playing with the Silver Creek Legion programs this summer.

"We don't play graduated seniors even though they're eligible," Apodaca said. "We keep it to the guys who are returning so we can really start working towards that next season."

The three teams practice twice a week and the Legion A team will play 20 league games and three tournaments, not counting any state tournaments it may qualify for.

Silver Creek had a team for incoming freshmen last summer but returning players like Nick Hartman, who is a three-sport athlete and can't commit to a grueling summer season with a baseball-centric club, had nowhere to play. Apodaca said keeping players like Hartman involved as much as possible is a primary concern for Silver Creek, which is why he has tried to structure the American Legion programs in such a way that doesn't overwhelm multi-sport players.

"This is my first year playing Legion ball because I've played basketball the past couple years in the summer," Hartman said. "Club baseball is a big time commitment so it's great to have this option to play together with all our friends and to build up the program in the summer. It's great because we don't play quite as many games as the other clubs but we still play a lot of baseball and the coaches are really understanding that we have other stuff.

"At least we're playing baseball as much as possible, as opposed to some of the bigger clubs that expect you to be there 100 percent of the time and you have to worry about whether you're going to get playing time if you're not."

The Silver Creek Legion A team is off to a 3-6 start to the summer season. For a team that graduated 11 seniors in the spring, the move to start a Silver Creek summer program couldn't have come at a better time.

"So far it's been pretty good," Hewitt said. "It's a big rebuilding summer for us. We've got a lot of young guys and a lot of varsity spots open next spring that these young guys are competing for. They're exciting to compete for those spots and hopefully make an impact in the spring."

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