Legion Baseball flashback: 2008 ALWS featured 7 future major leaguers
Future major leaguer Paul Sewald was the 2008 James F. Daniel Sportsmanship Award winner.

Legion Baseball flashback: 2008 ALWS featured 7 future major leaguers

When Shelby, N.C., first hosted an American Legion World Series in 2008, the stars literally and figuratively came out.

The eight-team ALWS won by Las Vegas included 17 eventual professional baseball signees, nine players selected in the first 10 rounds of the major league draft and seven eventual major leaguers.

Two of those eventual major leaguers met in the 2023 World Series as Jordan Montgomery and the Texas Rangers defeated Paul Sewald and the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games.

In 2008, Sewald’s Las Vegas team that included five eventual major leaguers was ALWS champion and Montgomery’s Sumter, S.C., team, which had advanced by winning the 2008 Southeast Regional in Shelby, finished fourth in the double-elimination tournament.

Ironically, Sewald’s pitching sent Sumter reeling in the 2008 ALWS as Las Vegas outlasted Post 15, 11-9, in the winner’s bracket final on the third day of the five-day event.

Despite yielding six runs in the bottom of the first inning and eventually falling behind 8-3, Sewald went 7 2/3 innings for the victory with eventual 2008 ALWS MVP Jeff Malm getting the final four outs for a save.

Las Vegas, nicknamed the “Titans,” would go on to become the last team to finish unbeaten in national American Legion Baseball playoff competition as Post 76 went 5-0 in the Western Regional in Surprise, Ariz., and 5-0 in the ALWS for a 75-7 overall record.

The 75 victories by coach Chris Sheff’s team remain an all-time single-season record for an ALWS champion. The trip to Shelby also was somewhat of a homecoming for Sheff, who spent the 1996 and 1997 seasons playing Class AAA baseball for the nearby Charlotte Knights.

Sewald, who played outfield when not pitching, would finish the season with a 5-0 pitching record and a .350 batting average that was highlighted by a .459 average with 11 RBIs in Las Vegas’ 10 national postseason contests.

A 10th-round pick of the New York Mets in 2012 after a four-year career at the University of San Diego, Sewald broke into the major leagues in 2017 with the Mets and later played for the Seattle Mariners before being traded to Arizona late in the 2023 season.

For the Diamondbacks, Sewald went 0-1 with 13 saves in 20 appearances in the regular season before playing a key role in the team’s improbable playoff run. In the playoffs, Sewald went 1-0 with six saves as sixth-seeded Arizona swept the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers, then rallied to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in a seven-game series to advance to the World Series.

Other future major leaguers on the 2008 Las Vegas team were Johnny Field (Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins), Donn Roach (San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners), Joey Rickard (Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants) and Tyler Wagner (Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks).

Teammates Malm, Scott Dysinger and Erik Van Meetren also played professionally.

Montgomery was one of the youngest players on the 2008 Sumter team as a 15-year-old pitcher-outfielder that summer who pitched only once in the postseason, a relief effort in the regionals. He was kept out of the ALWS after it was determined after the regionals that he had a stress fracture in his left arm.

Montgomery’s Sumter team, which beat Bristol, Conn., 3-2, and South Richmond, Va., 9-6, before meeting Las Vegas, lost 8-7 to Pasco, Wash., the following day to finish 2-2 in the tournament.

A member of the University of South Carolina’s 2012 College World Series runner-up team, Montgomery was a fourth-round pick of the New York Yankees in the 2014 major league draft.

Montgomery made his pro debut in 2017 with the Yankees before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022 and to the Rangers in 2023. After going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts for the Rangers after midseason trade, Montgomery went 3-1 in six appearances (five starts) as Texas knocked off Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Houston and Arizona to win that franchise's first-ever World Series title.

Other professional players on Sumter’s 2008 roster were two-time South Carolina College World Series champion Matt Price, Travis Witherspoon, Matt Talley and Bruce Caldwell.

Eric Yardley of Pasco, Wash., was the seventh player from the 2008 ALWS to reach the majors, spending time with the Padres and Brewers.

 


American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball

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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