Welcome to the Eugene Challengers

11-14-14 HEALTH ISSUES FORCE TODD ZEIGLER TO STEP DOWN AS COACH; SEARCH BEGINS TO HIRE SUCCESSOR BY EARLY JANUARY

Coach Z 2014Todd Zeigler’s last win with the Challengers was an upset of eventual Northwest Regional champs Waipahu.

Todd Zeigler is stepping down as coach of the Eugene Challengers as he deals with the ongoing effects of multiple sclerosis.

Zeigler, 42, coached the Challengers for the past six seasons, leading the American Legion baseball team to 212 wins (second all-time on the Challenger list) 123 losses and two ties. Under his guidance, the Challengers won the state championship in 2012 and made three Northwest Regional appearances. The Challengers will begin an immediate search for a new coach.

“I’m really disappointed, but I’ve got to try to get my body to work the best it can, and unfortunately I don’t think baseball helps that,” Zeigler said.

Zeigler, the head equipment manager at College of the Siskiyous, in Weed, Calif., was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disorder of the nervous system, in 2010. In his Legion coaching career, including a stint at Humboldt County in northern California, his teams won 492 games.

“When I first started coaching the Falcons, we used to come up to the Challengers’ tournament every year, and every year I was ‘wow, this is an awesome program, it would be great to coach here,’” Zeigler said. “When I got the job, I told everybody how lucky I was. The experience I’ve had with the Challengers has been awesome. The organization has been great to me and the kids have been just great.

“I know I’m not the easiest guy to play for. I’m a little abrasive. But even if the kids didn’t like my style, they bought in to what I was trying to get them to do. It’s been a really great experience.”

Challengers board chairman Dale Hartley expressed deep regret that Zeigler will be unable to continue as coach.

“The impact Todd has left on the program is long-lasting,” Hartley said. “He did it his way, but more importantly he did it the right way and the respect he has from the baseball community at large and the respect he has from all of us on the board of directors is tremendous.

“I am personally very saddened to see someone who I have so much respect and admiration for going through the terrible medical issue he is facing. He has never complained, never used it as an excuse and continues to be determined to live his life his way. I am truly sad to see Todd step away from the Challenger organization as our head coach but he will always be a Challenger.”

Hartley said “Coach Z is exactly what being a baseball coach is about — a deep love of the game of baseball and an even deeper love for the young men you coach. Todd has brought intensity, discipline, heart, dedication and a passion to Swede Johnson Stadium that is unmatched in a lot of ways. … I don’t know if the young men he has coached truly understand at the time, but Coach Z teaches so much more than just playing the game of baseball and I know years after they hang up the Challenger uniform they come to understand just how much he loved each and every one of them.”

Challengers general manager Les Duman said that a notice of application will be posted on the Challengers Web site and the organization hopes to have a new coach selected by sometime in January.

10-01-14 FIRST-YEAR COLLEGE PLAYERS TO REMAIN ELIGIBLE

Jordan Thompson 2014

First-year college players, as Jordy Thompson was in 2014, will remain eligible for Legion baseball.

First-year college students will remain eligible to participate in American Legion baseball as long as they meet the 19-and-under age requirements, according to national American Legion assistant director for baseball Steve Cloud.

A rule change, passed several years ago and geared to take effect in 2015, would have prohibited first-year college players from participating, restricting teams to high-school players.

In the case of the Eugene Challengers, for example, that would have prevented players such as Jalen Drath, Travis Boggs, Jordan Thompson, Dalton Pachano and Andy Arruda from playing during the past season.

However, Cloud said American Legion has decided to maintain the current policy of allowing first-year college players to participate, as long as they meet certain requirements — potentially, such as a requirement that the players appeared on an approved American Legion roster the previous year, rather than played travel ball, for example.  Those requirements will be finalized at American Legion’s national executive committee meeting Oct. 13-16.

Eugene Challengers board chairman Dale Hartley endorsed the decision to continue to allow first-year college players to participate.

“I think the first-year college player rule is critical for American Legion baseball and the Eugene Challengers from a competitive standpoint but more importantly it allows young men to come back to their hometowns and play one more season for their local American Legion team, for which some have played many years,” Hartley said.

“I also believe strongly that it is very important for our younger players to have the opportunity to play alongside and learn from those returning first-year college players because they have experience at the collegiate level and can bring to the team ability, leadership and direction for the younger players to learn from.

“I have seen over the years the benefit from having returning first-year college players and I am very happy to see this rule extended in American Legion baseball.”

Not changing, Cloud said, is the rule that the age requirement will be determined by birth year.  That means that a player turning 20 at any time in 2015 would not be eligible to play next season, even if his birthday falls after the completion of the season.

08.13.14 THE ESSENCE OF THE CHALLENGERS, AND A SEASON WRAP

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The Eugene Challengers 2014 season ended with a disappointing loss in the Northwest Regionals, and it ended with some tears, because of the defeat and because the game could be the last for Challengers coach Todd Zeigler as he deals with multiple sclerosis at age 42.

Various numbers will tell some of the story of Zeigler’s six-year tenure with the Challengers — 212 wins (second all-time on the Challenger list) 123 losses and two ties, a state championship, three Northwest Regional appearances. And numbers can tell some of the story of the Challengers season — 30-24, a second-place finish in Area 4.

But the essence of the Eugene Challengers — both of this resilient, hard-working team and of the remarkable experience that is Challengers American Legion baseball ­— has been captured perfectly in this video produced by Rick Stewart:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/lcfkq46pfp60uv6/Challenger%20Final%20iTunes%20Panavision.m4v

Stewart, father of Challengers pitcher Will Stewart, is the host and producer of “NRA Life of Duty” that shares the stories of heroes in uniform (military, law enforcement, and first responder).  These stories are online at www.nralifeofduty.tv and also air on the Sportsman Channel. The filming for the Challenger piece was done by Rick’s LOD cinematography crew at AO Creative, owned by Ryan Welch, and was edited by Ryan Rossman.

The video provides an enduring memory of this season and, for returning players, a vision to take through the year to next season.

The 2014 Challengers were improved from the previous year. They had a winning record and reached the state tournament, winning twice there. They won once in the Northwest Regionals, defeating Waipahu, the Hawaii state champions who recovered to win regionals for the second straight year. If the Challengers never had a truly long winning streak, their longest losing streak was two games. They kept bouncing back, until the season was done.

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08.11.14 WAIPAHU WINS TWICE TO CLAIM NORTHWEST REGIONAL TITLE

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 Josh Maglangit (21) piles on pitcher Josh Inouye as Waipahu players celebrate the final out.

WAIPAHU 8, MEDFORD MUSTANGS 6

EUGENE, OR. — Indomitable, irrepressible, seemingly impervious to pressure and utterly endearing, Waipahu won twice on Monday to win the Northwest Regional American Legion baseball tournament at Swede Johnson Stadium and earn a trip to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., for the second straight year.

In 100-degree heat, the Hawaii state champions, with just a 13-player roster, defeated Boise, 7-4, in a loser-out game, and then defeated the Oregon state champions, the Medford Mustangs, 8-6, in the championship game.

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08.10.14 MONDAY MATCHUPS SET: BOISE GEMS FACE WAIPAHU IN LOSER-OUT GAME AT NOON, WITH WINNER FACING MEDFORD FOR NORTHWEST REGIONAL TITLE AT 4 P.M….. SUNDAY’S GAMES: GEMS STAY ALIVE WITH WIN OVER OREGON CHAMPS; WAIPAHU GETS WALK-OFF WIN OVER YAKIMA VALLEY

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Parker Price kept the Boise Gems alive in the tournament with a complete-game win over Medford on Sunday.

BOISE GEMS 7, MEDFORD MUSTANGS 4

EUGENE, OR. — After Parker Price battled into the bottom of the ninth Sunday with a five-run lead, there was no way his coach, and dad, Larry Price, was taking the ball away from him.

Not after the Boise Gems pitcher had held the mighty Medford Mustangs to two runs through eight innings while his teammates backed him with seven, two on a homer by Michael Stefanic. Not after Medford’s Micah Brown hit a two-run homer, his third of the tournament, to cut the deficit to 7-4. Not even when the dangerous Christian Gillis was up with two outs and two runners on, representing the tying run in what was an elimination game for the Idaho champions.

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