When you drive into the town of Shelby, N.C., a sign greets you that reads “Welcome to Shelby, home of the American Legion World Series.” It was 10 years ago that 100 Shelby residents traveled by bus to The American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis to place a bid in front of the National Executive Committee to become the permanent site of the ALWS.
“We knew we were giving it our best shot. Where it has ended, as of today, it has surpassed our expectations to be quite honest with you,” shared Eddie Holbrook, with members of the NEC and American Legion leadership. “Our dream number one was that we made you proud. Number two was to make our community proud and (the ALWS) become a staple in our community.”
Since 2010 when Shelby hosted the ALWS as its permanent site, game attendance has grown from 37,000 to more than 127,000; and coverage of the 15-game series has gone from web stream only to ESPN Live.
For these reasons, and many more, Eddie and his wife, Millie, were presented with The American Legion’s Patriot Award Oct. 16 during the NEC’s Fall Meetings at National Headquarters.
American Legion National Commander James “Bill” Oxford was Department of North Carolina commander when Shelby was seeking its bid and was in the NEC Room to support their efforts. “The excitement and enthusiasm that Eddie brings to the table is beyond what anybody can imagine,” Oxford said.
Between 500-800 Shelby residents volunteer during the ALWS, which is a statement to how “our community has bought into (the ALWS),” Eddie said. “We can’t say in words what you mean to us. For the service that you’ve given to this country.”
Before the Patriot Award was presented to the Holbrooks, Americanism Chairman Richard Anderson of Connecticut shared what it takes to be a leader and have the volunteers that Shelby has for the World Series.
“Someone once told me to be a leader, to make sure you look back once in a while and make sure they’re following you. Eddie and Millie have taken this great avenue to give back to their volunteers, constantly making sure they still have their backs,” Anderson said. “I can’t say enough about these two people. From their outstanding hospitality, leadership and above all, the acceptance and love they have given to our family, the American Legion Family.”
In his acceptance remarks, Eddie shared that as host of the ALWS, “we wanted those young men, who came from all over the country wearing The American Legion seal to participate in the American Legion World Series, we wanted it to be a highlight of their life. I think if you were to talk to the Idaho Falls (Post 56 2019 ALWS champions) coach today, he would tell you what it meant to the Idaho Falls players.”
The Series also is significant to the youth in Shelby, as there is a waiting list to be a bat boy for the ALWS. While out to dinner recently, the Holbrooks saw a 10-year-old boy who was the bat boy for the Idaho Falls team during the 2019 ALWS; he had been on the wait list for two years. Eddie shared that he was proudly wearing an Idaho Falls American Legion World Series champions hoodie.
“I say this from my wife and I, this is a glorious journey for us. We’ve been the recipient of a lot of awards. We are the recipients because of the army and team that we are a part of. We just represent them,” Eddie shared in his final remarks. “When we go back (to Shelby), we’ll make sure to convey that message to them and they’ll be proud.
“On behalf of Shelby and Cleveland County, we accept this award on behalf of all the people who give so much. And thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We appreciate it.”