Helping each other out; Austin VFW Post 1216 has stepped up to give baseball team a boost

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Austin Post 1216 VFW baseball team may have had its season come to an end over the weekend, but the program has still come a long way in the last few years.

The team was once struggling for funds and players and it was being run by the Marcusen Park Baseball Assocation, but since then the VFW has stepped up and brought the program back to life. Austin Post 1216 had 20 players in its roster in each of the last two summers and it has played in two state tournaments in the last five years under the coaching of Joe Ciola and Mark Conner, who took a step back from coaching this summer.

“It’s starting to come around,” Austin VFW commander Scott Wiechmann said. “We have good coaching. If you’re succesful, it’s amazing how many kids want to play.

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“The VFW success we’ve had transfers into the Legion, which then hopefully transfers into the Austin High School and Pacelli teams.”

Ciola was able to coach his sons Alex and Anthony with the VFW, but he’s also enjoyed getting to know the rest of the squad and watching them become better baseball players.

“I think it’s a great thing for the community not only to have them playing baseball, but having them spend time with their teammates and know what it’s like to be a band of brothers over the summer together,” Ciola said.

Austin’s VFW teams have put up a lot of wins over the last few summers and Ciola credited the level of talent to that success.

It also helped to have a coaching staff that was locked in and dedicated to help out the young players.

“I had a good group of ball players and it was just a matter of getting them consistent practices, a consistent amount of games and consistent coaching,” Ciola said. “We had a program that was structured and we started to win ball games.”