Major League Baseball and American Legion baseball don't have a formal partnership, but the two share a storied history.
In all, more than 80 program graduates are in the Baseball Hall of Fame including Class of 2019 inductee, Lee Smith.
A former legion teammate was in attendance last weekend to witness Smith join baseball's most elite fraternity.
"I knew he was something special when I played with him, had no idea he'd end up in Cooperstown."
Jimmy Hyams and Hall of Famer Lee Smith go back decades as American Legion baseball teammates.
"It was impressive to watch him," said Hyams. "I played with him, I'm two years older than he is. I used to go pick him up and give him a ride to practice because he was 15 and couldn't drive, didn't have a car. The first time I ever saw him pitch, we were playing the defending state american legion champion in Louisiana on the road. He struck out 17, we won 7-1. I used to be a pitcher, that's why I am no longer a pitcher. That guy could throw."
Smith spent 15 years on the writers ballot before getting the call.
"It's my honor Lee to welcome you into our Hall of Fame family," Jane Forbes Clark echoed at the induction ceremony.
And it meant just as much to his supporters.
"When I saw that he got in I was absolutely thrilled," said Hyams. "I got a phone call from the guy that coached us and his son was on the team as well, and a couple of other teammates decided we're coming up here. We're gonna celebrate with Lee Smith."
From those American Legion days in a small town in north Louisiana to being enshrined here in Cooperstown among baseball's elite, Lee Smith never forgot where he came from, how he got here, and those who helped him along the way.
"It all started in a small town Castor, Louisiana," said Smith in front of 55,000 fans. "If you think Cooperstown is small, you've never been to Castor. Castor provided one of the strongest local community you could ever find. So many people came together to support me, to put me on the path to success in baseball."
"So many people are so proud of him," added Hyams. "He was a great teammate, a great person and I just feel fortunate that I had a chance to play with Lee Smith."
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