GRANTS PASS, Ore. – For years Grants Pass struggled to finish above .500 in the American Legion Zone 4. The last two years, however, the Nuggets wrote a different story. With 20 league wins in two years, the team’s confidence is sky high, but it all started last year with the right mix of talent.
“These guys come to the park every day,” head coach Mike Reese says. “This is a great group. My hats off to my guys. I mean, they play the game right. They’re playing it hard.”
There’s a unique team cohesiveness with this group of legion baseball players, several of which played together for multiple seasons, but the players say the reason for GP’s success is much simpler.
“We had more talent last year,” Marco Garmendia says. “The year before we were younger and didn’t really have the talent.”
“We’re just bringing in a lot of good players,” Jake Herklotz says. “The area we’ve been pulling from is really good.”
Garmendia and Herklotz were both with the team two years ago when the Nuggets finished with a 6-10 record in league play. Last year GP turned it around, but this group wanted to prove that wasn’t a fluke.”
“We had a really good team last year,” Herklotz says, “so this team’s kind of taken that as a challenge to see if we can beat last year’s run.”
To do that the Nuggets will have to avoid a letdown like the one they experienced in last year’s state tournament. Eugene, the eventual state champion, eliminated Grants Pass on the third day.
“I think everyone got there and kind of tightened up and didn’t know what to do with themselves,” Herklotz says. “As long as everyone stays relaxed and plays their game, then I think we’ll do good.”
Herklotz will be gone next year. Garmendia may be back, but with two years at the top of Zone 4, the turnaround is complete.
“A few years ago we were the doormat in this state,” Reese says, “and to rise up from that feels good.”