Story last updated at 2:56 p.m. Friday, August 9, 2002

Post 16 Mariners see end of Legion season
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

Following what was a surprisingly successful "rebuilding year" for the high school squad, the Homer Post 16 baseball team had a few more bumps in the road during the American Legion season, which wrapped up for the Mariners last weekend when they were eliminated from the state tournament in Anchorage.

The Post 16 Mariners were ousted from the state tourney following a 8-1 loss to East Post 34 on Saturday and a 13-2 defeat at the hands of Kenai Post 20 on Sunday.

Lary Kuhns, who coached both the high school and Legion squads, said with a lot of younger players on his roster he knew there would be some difficult times, not the least of which was the death last month of Stan McGrorty. McGrorty had been part general manager, part booster and always a big part of the Legion team in Homer.

His passing was a blow to the program, Kuhns said.

The team finished 10-19 overall, a record that includes a trio of forfeit-generated wins that came during the July 26-30 District II tournament in Kenai.

Those wins, which were awarded by Legion officials after Kuhns protested a rules violation by the Kenai team, could not push the Mariners over the top in the tournament, which Kenai Post 20 Twins eventually won.

Kuhns protested the presence of three Juneau players on the Twins' roster. While Legion rules allow players from communities that have no Legion team to play for another team, they must go to the closest team to their home town. Kuhns pointed out to Kenai coach and District II Director Lance Coz that, by calculations using Mercator navigational charts, he found the closest town to Juneau is actually Wasilla, followed by Homer and then Kenai.

While Coz admitted to what he called a screwup, he removed the players from his team and took forfeits for Kenai's prior tournament games, the issue turned out to be an explosive one for both teams.

The same day the protest was resolved, Homer and Kenai squared off for a game that apparently stirred up the bad blood between the teams.

Patti Pollack, whose son Jim is the Mariners' catcher, said she was surprised at how the Kenai fans were behaving given that their team won the contest by an 8-2 margin. The heckling was apparently directed at the Homer team in general and Kuhns more specifically.

"I didn't know that anything was going on (between the teams) until after the game was over and the Kenai coaches walked over to talk to our coaches and I heard somebody say, 'hey get your hands off my husband,'" Pollack said.

What had been brewing on the field and in the stands had boiled over into all-out post-game animosity.

Kuhns said during the confrontation Kenai assistant coach Jim Newby suggested he'd like to fight, something Newby told the Peninsula Clarion was a misunderstanding on Kuhns' part.

Kuhns told the Clarion that due to all of the ugliness, which included an exchange between himself and some heckling fans, he would never bring his teams to play in Kenai again.

"I would retract that now," Kuhns said, giving a nod to the clean game the two teams played in Anchorage. "I can't wait to play them next year."