Legion fans mapping out plans to follow team to Fargo
By Meghan Cooke
The road to Fargo, N.D., is long. But not too long for fans of Rowan County’s American Legion baseball team.
Rowan celebrated its 3-2 victory in the Southeast Regional Championship on Monday, propelling the team to the American Legion World Series in Fargo. The Series begins Friday when Rowan will face the Central Plains Regional champion, Festus (Mo.).
Now fans are doing their best to make arrangements to see the local players take the field.
“I’ve been on the phone all morning trying to contact parents to see who’s interested in going,” Genny Reed, of Salisbury, said Tuesday.
Reed, who plans to travel to Fargo to watch her grandson, Russell Michalec, play in the Series, was trying to organize players’ parents to take a charter bus to North Dakota.
“The more fans you can get up there, the better it makes (the players) feel,” she said.
If the bus doesn’t work out, she said she’ll book a flight as soon as possible.
“It’s too great of a time not to go,” she said. “This doesn’t happen every week.”
Carmen Carter, office manager of Wayne Mullis Travel Inc., said she received several calls from fans Tuesday morning inquiring about the cost of a trip to Fargo.
“We don’t have a package per se, but we’re helping people if they want to purchase airline tickets,” she said.
The cost of airline tickets might range between $1,100 and $1,800, she said.
Wayne Mullis, CEO of the travel agency, said the lack of competition among airlines flying into Fargo results in high prices. He recommended flying to Minneapolis and then driving three hours to Fargo.
Other options include traveling by bus, which would most likely require two days on the road, or by train, which might take even longer because routes would take passengers north before heading west, Carter said.
But Donna Wilcoxson, manager of Travel Associates Inc. of Salisbury, said Amtrak routes to Fargo are sold out.
“If they don’t already have their ticket, they are pretty much SOL,” she said.
Those willing to brave the open road face a grueling drive of approximately 1,400 miles from Rowan County to the Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo ó a jaunt that will take about 22 hours.
According to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the national average price for unleaded gas is $2.643, making for a pricey journey.
While the players fly out of South Carolina this morning, team manager Bob Lowman planned to hit the road at 6 a.m.
He prefers driving over flying, Lowman said in a telephone interview Tuesday as he drove back to Salisbury from Sumter, S.C., where the team defeated the Legion team from Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the regional championship.
“I like to look,” said Lowman, who traveled to Oregon when Rowan made it to the Legion World Series in 1996. “And I’ve never been to that part of the country.”
More than 50 years ago, Dr. Clyde Young of Salisbury went with the team to St. Paul, Minn., for the Legion World Series. Since then, he has become a fixture at the games, playing the national anthem and other patriotic songs on his trumpet between innings.
For now, the avid fan, who will turn 86 Friday, has no plans to travel with the team to Fargo.
“A trip like this takes a little bit out of us,” he said of his wife and himself. “Right now, I’d say no, but I could be talked into it. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility.”
Lisa Laws and her son Colton plan to venture to Fargo to watch her older son, pitcher Cody Laws, play in the Series.
Although costs are high, not going to Fargo isn’t an option for Laws, who was still trying to arrange travel Tuesday evening.
Many of the players have been playing together since Little League, she said.
“I’m not a bit surprised everybody is willing to do what it takes to go up and support them,” she said. “This is one of the best experiences they’ll ever have. It’s a real honor and a great experience to get this far.”
Laws hopes to be in Fargo until Rowan’s run is complete. The series’ final game will be played Tuesday.
“Hopefully, we’ll be there until Tuesday playing,” she said.
Fans who can’t make it to Fargo can watch all of the games live on the American Legion’s Web site, http://baseball.legion.org.