American Legion Baseball enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic leagues. Today, the program registers more than 5,400 teams in all 50 states, including Canada and Puerto Rico.
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Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis was recently recognized as The American Legion Graduate of the Year for 2012. American Legion Past National Commander Jake Comer presented him with the honorable award at Dodgers Stadium, which Ellis now shares with many notable Major League Baseball players, including former New York Yankees player and current Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
Ellis is a native of Rapid City, S.D., and played Legion Baseball for the Rapid City Post 22 “Hardhat” team. In 1993 at 16 years old, he was the starting shortstop for Post 22, which went on to win The American Legion Baseball World Series championship title in Roseburg, Ore., with a 70-5 record. Ellis also went on to earn South Dakota American Legion Player of the Year honors in 1994 and 1995, and is one of three Post 22 players to have made it to the major leagues. The other two are Dave Collins and Kelvin Torve.
Ellis played college baseball for the University of Florida Gators where he helped lead his team to the 1998 College World Series. After college he was a ninth-round selection by the Kansas City Royals in the 1999 MLB draft. He was acquired by the Oakland Athletics in 2001, traded to the Colorado Rockies in 2011 and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in late 2011.
While with the Oakland Athletics, Ellis was a two-time recipient of the Jim “Catfish” Hunter Award, which is given to the team’s most courageous, competitive and inspirational player. The award is in honor of 1987 MLB Hall of Fame inductee James Augustus Hunter, who pitched for the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.