Andy Christensen needs baseball players.
He needs infielders, outfielders and catchers. He really needs pitching.
Piecing together a lineup with any consistency has been difficult for the Post 52 American Legion baseball coach.
“It’s been a tough summer,” Christensen said Tuesday night. “We’ve really struggled with numbers. We’re always walking that edge of having enough guys to even play.”
The team, which took a 4-15 record into Wednesday night’s game against Holmen, had 14 players available for a game once this summer. The general reality for Post 52 has been nine or 10 players at the field.
“I think we have a lot of kids finding reasons not to be there and not reasons to be there,” said Christensen, who has been a coach with Post 52 since 1976 and led the program the last 24 summers.
Vacations, work, football camps, basketball camps, injuries — you name it — have all had a part in the problem for Post 52.
Christensen is in a position that requires relying on younger players, and that has made fielding a full team quite the challenge. Needing those younger players has created competition in the city.
“We have the (La Crosse) Juniors and the (La Crosse) A’s as 17-U and 16-U teams,” Christensen said. “We’re fighting over guys.”
Christensen has used players from Aquinas, Central, Logan, Melrose-Mindoro and Bangor this season. While that might paint a rosy picture teams from smaller communities, it hasn’t resulted in much breathing room when putting together lineups on a daily basis. Having players competing for multiple teams and having to make decisions on which team to play for on a game-to-game basis hurts, too.
Christensen had to cancel games against MVL teams Sparta Miller and Chaseburg/Coon Valley and pulled out of a games against Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire due to a lack of players.
He has been able to count on players like Brandon Merfeld, Zach Fellenz and Nick Schlicht, Kyle Stair, Brett Gerdes and a couple others, but the rotation around them has been pretty inconsistent.
“This is the fourth year that we’ve struggled with numbers,” Christensen said. “We always know we’ll have six or seven, but we need three or four more, and it seems like we just have people missing at the wrong times.
“We’ve gotten a lot of our games in, but it can get frustrating.”
The formation of the La Crosse North Stars nine years ago to primarily serve players from Logan dealt a blow to Post 52, which was formed in 1933 and the only Legion team in the city until a decade ago. Post 52 turned its attention primarily toward players from Central and Aquinas.
Christensen said Post 52 had no Central players available for a game against La Crescent earlier this season.
While he is frustrated, Christensen isn’t totally discouraged on the future of the program. He has been part of it for far too long to throw in the towel.
“There isn’t really anything we can do about this season,” he said. “But I’ll sit down with Bags (Aquinas coach Scott Bagniefski) and (Central) coach (Joe) Branson after the season and see if we can get the ship righted a little bit.”