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It can be a challenge to find a ballgame
Hogan Edwards, who will be a senior at Monroe High School next season, will play Home Talent League baseball again this summer and also will play for an International Baseball Academy team. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher) To order this photo, click here.
MONROE - Hogan Edwards isn't letting the fact that Monroe will not field a Senior American Legion baseball team for the second straight summer derail his desire to improve as a hitter and pitcher.

Edwards, who will be a senior at Monroe High School next season, will play Home Talent League baseball for the second straight summer. Monroe doesn't have an HTL team, but Edwards will play for Wiota. Edwards is also playing on an International Baseball Academy team based out of Middleton that features two players from Janesville, two players from Whitewater and several players from Venezuela. The International Baseball Academy team plays about 15 to 20 games in six tournaments over six straight weeks this summer.

"It's nice to get out there and keep in the swing of things for next spring," Edwards said. "I hope to play as well as I did at the end of the high school season and carry it over to Home Talent."

The decline of Senior Legion and summer baseball programs for high school players is not happening just in Monroe. Only four of the 10 high schools in the Monroe Times coverage area in Green and Lafayette counties have high school level summer league teams.

Albany fielded a Senior Legion team in the past with players from Albany and Brodhead but will not field a team this summer. Aaron Guilbault, the coach of the Brodhead-Juda high school team, said Brodhead and Juda each will have their own summer teams this year.

"You have to have a commitment and have the numbers," Monroe High School baseball coach Dustin Huffman said. "You have a lot of kids at Monroe who are three-sport athletes who are making commitments to other sports. We would love to have a summer baseball team but with only six (players available) it's difficult. You're really competitive teams in the state play 30 to 40 Legion games a summer. We don't need to play that many. We would like to be able to get back to the point where we are playing 15 to 16 games."

Instead, Monroe will have several players meet with assistant coach Eric Losenegger twice a week in the summer to work in the batting cage, work on fielding and fundamentals to stay sharp.

Both Pecatonica and New Glarus are part of the Dane County Babe Ruth League for players from 16 to 18 years old. Pecatonica coach Jim Strommen looks to get a roster of 15 players. Strommen said the team doesn't practice but just plays games in the summer due to the players' hectic schedules of family vacations and commitments to other sports. Strommen has had Pecatonica playing in the same league since the mid 1980s.

"I can't complain," Strommen said. "I think it's been a big benefit to our program. It's some added experience you can get in the summer."

Strommen admits that there are challenges in fielding a summer league team but as long as he has enough players, the games will go on.

"There are a lot of things kids are involved in during the summer," Strommen said. "They are playing in basketball leagues, tournaments and weight lifting. They also do need time to just be kids."

Edwards, like many high school players, is having to make adjustments in the summer to play baseball.

The HTL is a wooden bat league and features some players who have been college pitchers. Mitch Marty, a Monroe High School graduate, also is playing for Wiota. Last summer, Edwards played in the HTL with the Monroe Brewers.

"I was new to it last year and I had to get used to a wooden bat league," Edwards said. "The college kids throw harder."

Edwards has specific areas he's planning on improving this summer.

"I need to work on my footwork and fielding," he said. "I can always use pitching advice."

Playing with players from another country on the International Baseball Academy team is an experience Edwards is looking forward to. The team he is on went 1-2 in its first tournament at Kishwaukee College playing in DeKalb, Illinois.

Five of the players don't speak English, and he and his other teammates from Wisconsin use baseball as a common bond with their Venezuelan teammates.

"It's really a cool experience," Edwards said. "It's a treat in its own. You don't get that often. That (baseball) is what they do, and they are really good. It's nice to get out there and play live games against other teams. It's nice to see what people bring and how you can handle it."