By Jeff Holt
Published in The Burg September 16, 2021
GALESBURG - It wasn't that long ago that you could look out at the rightfield fence at Jim Sundberg Field and see a couple of retired Legion Post 285 jerseys - Mike Sturgeon (#1), Jim Isaacson (#13), Steve Cheesman (#14), Jason Maulden (#20), Sam Andre (#37) and Paul Smith Baseball (Chairman).
Those are just a couple of the storied names that help highlight the strong tradition of Galesburg Legion baseball.
And recently, they needed to find a coach to help continue that solid tradition of Post 285 baseball. They didn't have to look too far as Jeremy Kleine has been named the head coach.
"He (Kleine) was a terrific player and did all the little things to help his ballclub win," said Cheesman, a former head coach of Galesburg Legion baseball. "He was an assistant coach in my last year. He is a great baseball man, a wonderful leader and a person of tremendous integrity. He will do a fine job as the leader of Galesburg Legion baseball."
Kleine grew up playing little league baseball in Galesburg, looking up to players like Joe Dennis, Bob Jackson, Jami Isaacson and his older brother Chris "Bump" Kleine. And for one year, Jeremy and older brother (Chris) were teammates in baseball at Knox College.
Jeremy got to play baseball for Dave Peck and Gary "Bru" Bruington, along with one year for John Shay on the American Legion Post 285 team.
But it was getting to play for the late Jimmy Isaacson (2 years of legion ball and 4 years at Knox) that really left a lasting impression on him.
"I feel Jimmy Isaacson was a great baseball coach," said Jeremy. "I've got what I call six years of what I call Jimmy Ball. The right way to play baseball is what Jimmy always taught."
Kleine brings a winning attitude to the forefront, too, for the legion program. He went to state three-straight years in high school, which included that memorable 1988 season his junior year that featured a state championship. The 1989 season (his senior year) they finished third at state. Just a few of his teammates - from that era - were standout players like Toby Davis, Guy Goodman, Lance Aten, Bret Bruington and Corny Stanley. Eight of the players from that 1988 team at GHS went on to play Division I baseball.
Above all, Post 285 has a coach in Jeremy Kleine who is deeply-rooted with the tradition of Galesburg baseball and he has strong support from Laurie Sykes and Kyle Spencer.
The future of Galesburg Legion baseball is bright!
"I'm excited to do it," said Jeremy, a 1993 graduate of Knox College. "Back when I was playing, we always had good community support and the legion meant a lot to me. You looked forward to that phone call (to play on the team). I could not ask for better people to get it started."
* * * * * * *
Listed below are some events to jot down on your calendar for the American Legion baseball program.
* Nov. 11 - A "Meet and Greet" fundraiser at The Bar 65 from 5 to 9 p.m. where the public will be invited to meet the coaches.
* Feb 19 - A trivia night at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
* A business sponsor letter will also be sent out this month.
Foster and the Field of Dreams Flashback: About a month ago, the big talk around the area was the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa. Most people did not even attempt to try and get tickets for this big game with the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. So, they just watched it on Fox television.
The White Sox ended up winning the game 9-8 on a walkoff home run by Tim Anderson.
But locally, Galesburg native (and former legion player) Nick Foster was able to go to the big game.
Foster entered the Iowa lottery for the Field of Dream tickets. He had received an email from Major League Baseball saying that he had won the tickets the day before the game.
"I couldn't believe that I won the chance to go to this once in a lifetime game," he said. "The atmosphere of the field and everything surrounding it was just amazing."
Continued Foster, "I got a chance to walk through the cornfields and onto the original field from the movie, as well as getting a chance to see Kevin Costner and all of the players walking out of the corn was just a sight to see. The whole experience from the atmosphere to the crazy game itself gave me chills from start to finish."
This was one baseball game that Foster will never forget.
"I still can't believe I got to witness all of it," he said. "It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience."
(You can reach Jeff Holt at email@example.com)