"We are Tidioute, we are playing for Tidioute and everyone in Tidioute," said Tidioute Senior American Legion Baseball League head coach Mike Buccardo.
After years without a baseball team, Tidioute - the community - has a team back in the league.
"We haven't had a team for seven or eight years," said 30 year-old Buccardo, who was a player for Tidioute's Senior American Legion team.
Times Observer photo by Mitchell Wilston
A family event
Tidioute coach Mike Buccardo watches Jon Buccardo round third base on his way home to score during a Warren County Senior American Legion Baseball League game recently in Tidioute. Tidioute lost the game, 23-2, but has a new sense of community after restarting the Legion team after years without one.
"I played legion ball from fifteen up until I was eighteen. I want these kids to have that experience."
After a stretch of unsuccessful seasons, "people just didn't want to put up with losing."
Despite taking its fair share of lumps so far this year with a record of 0-3, and a 23-2 loss to the defending league champion Corry Northwest Savings Bank, this year's team is more resilient than that.
"I have a good group of kids now. Each and every one of the kids I have comes to practice and works hard," said Buccardo.
It was back in February that Buccardo decided it was time to have a baseball team again.
"I wanted to give the kids that are coming up, the younger kids, something to look forward to," said Buccardo. And, in a small town like Tidioute, there isn't a high school baseball team that older kids can play for.
For the first step in the process, Buccardo talked to Steve Morrison and Wayne Wismar, directors in the league.
"Steve said he would help me out and back me up. Then, I talked to the president of the legion, Wayne Wismar."
"I asked if it was okay to get Tidioute involved in Legion and he just said, 'if you are willing to go through with it, we are more than happy to get you in the league.'"
That's when it started to get harder, but Buccardo wasted no time recruiting kids to play and coming up with the money to start the team.
"It was quite the challenge. I had to raise ($2,500). $1,500 went to the umpires and $1,200 went to uniforms and equipment," explained Buccardo.
"I went and asked all kinds of businesses for donations," he said. "The community of Tidioute really helped out. I asked around ten businesses and they all contributed a decent amount. The whole community is behind the Legion team."
Because of the support that came from the town, the name for the team came easy:
"We're just Tidioute. Everyone donated to Legion so we just put Tidioute on the uniforms to let everyone know that we're playing for the whole town," he said.
Even after contributions from the town, the team was short on some equipment, but Buccardo lived up on his promise to follow through with the idea and donated the rest of the equipment himself.
"The only thing I did was donate my catchers equipment and I bought them a bat because we didn't really have any," said Buccardo.
The team is now firmly in place, but there are still obstacles to overcome.
Of the 11 kids on the roster, the oldest is just 16 years old and experience doesn't run as deep as many rosters in the league.
"There's no high school team, it's just little league experience for most of them," said Buccardo. "For a few of them it's their first time playing baseball. I tried explaining to them that when I played we had a high school team that made cuts. It's not like that now, you don't try out. If you sign up, you play."
When their last time playing ball was at eleven-or-twelve years old, it's quite a jump going up against teams playing 18-year olds that have been playing high school jump.
That being said, the Tidioute team might be one of the hardest working teams there is, in Buccardo's eyes - practicing every week day, "unless we have a game, then I'll give them the day before off," said Buccardo.
With his brother Frank helping as the assistant coach, and plenty of parents willing to lend some time, the team has no shortage of support. It started with the fundamentals but, "the team keeps going and growing. We are working our way up," said Buccardo.
Buccardo understands that success doesn't come easy, as he puts it, "You have to start somewhere, Rome wasn't built in a day."
He adds, "the first year will be the toughest, but we are handling it well," said Buccardo. "Next year will be a little better, and the next even better. We'll be more competitive. I'm just hoping everyone on the roster comes back next year. If we're going to get a win we are going to have to play one heck of a game."
If everyone stays on the team, Tidioute can only gain talent as new kids join.
"The oldest kid on the team is just 16 years old but once they get to be seniors in high school they are going to be a tough team to beat. Look at the Warren seniors that played together and then ended up in the (District 10) title game," said Buccardo.
Whether they're winning or losing, the important thing is that they have the opportunity to play ball, and the community effort just makes the team even stronger.
"The young men on my roster have a lot of younger kids looking up to them," said Buccardo. "The younger kids give the older ones a little more reason to keep it together."
Tidioute doesn't have a win-yet. But with the way the team has been growing and with the support behind them, they're already winners.