And then there was one.

Westminster will not field a team in the American Legion's Western Maryland District this season, leaving Mount Airy Post 191 as the only Carroll team remaining in the baseball league for players ages 16 to 18.

Randy Biden, who coached the squad from 1987 until last year, said there were insufficient players to form the team this season.

Legion officials said the lack of players also was responsible for the breakup of Taneytown's Legion team two years ago and the failure of Sykesville's post to start its own team around the same time.

Bidensays this problem results from the lure of the Baltimore Metro League. That far-flung loop, considered the area's premier rec baseball organization, siphons off many local high schoolers who otherwise wouldplay Legion ball.

Biden says the youngsters are attracted by "themystique of playing for a Metro League team" adding, "There is a misconception that their players have better coaching and instruction."

This, plus the Metro League's strong competitive schedule and the hope of being noticed by college or pro scouts, are other reasons cited for its popularity among Carroll players.

"They leave the county and make other teams winners," Biden said, with a touch of resignation in his voice.

And, the Carroll County 16-18 Babe Ruth League, which starts earlier in the year but finishes its season in July, also attracts potential Legion players.

Biden said the Westminster American Legion's own team broke up about 12 years ago and that his team was an independent, sponsored by area businesses and the Westminster Elks.

The squad played in the Western Maryland District and alsoin the Metro League to give its players some stronger competition.

But it also struggled, playing .500 ball only once in five seasons.

"The bottom line was, we didn't win," Biden said, adding that recruiting efforts were hindered.

It was dissolved after half of lastyear's players said they wouldn't return this season.

Meanwhile, Mount Airy Legion coach George Richardson is busily recruiting for his 12th Legion campaign, which begins May 30.

He has attended 15 to20 high school games so far, and said he has signed up 11 players todate.

Richardson says losing players to the Metro League has hurtCarroll teams against perennial Western Maryland Legion powers such as Williamsport, Funkstown and Frederick.

These teams generally have the pick of their local players he said.

"Out there, you play Legion ball or you don't play," Richardson said.

But while he recognizes the Metro League's attractions, he

nevertheless fights the good fight to recruit high school youngsters.

Richardson said he works continually to sell the Legion baseball program to prospective players and their parents alike.

He tells them the Western Maryland District has the strongest program of any Legion program in the stateand will provide ample competition.

The efforts have evidently been successful, because Richardson says he is happy with his recruits so far.

He is still looking for a few more.

"I think we can be very competitive if we can get the 15 players we want," Richardson said.

He added that, if he gets those players, "everybody who plays us will know they had a ballgame."

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