GALESBURG - The debate has simmered in the community for decades: is Galesburg a basketball town or a baseball town?
Both sports have plenty of past championships, star players, successful coaches and proud traditions to boast, so that’s an argument that might never be settled.
But major changes occurred in Galesburg baseball in 2017 and combined, they qualified as the top local sports story for 2017.
In March, head coach for the Galesburg Silver Streaks for the past 18 years, Arnie Gonzalez announced the spring season would be his last and left the school to accept teaching and coaching jobs at Williamsfield High School.
Not long after, American Legion Post 285 announced it was shutting down a successful baseball program that had operated for 62 years and provided high-level summer competition for Galesburg high school and college players.
When new Streaks coach Jeremy Pickrel was hired in May, the Galesburg baseball landscape had undergone a dramatic change.
“Obviously, I think baseball has changed a lot in the last 10 or 15 years,” said Pickrel, himself a former Streaks and Galesburg Legion player.
“I can’t quote the articles I’ve seen but in terms of Legion baseball, all across the country teams are closing up shop.”
He added, “I think here when it happens you realize what the program meant to the community.”
In building his own program, Pickrel is already at work trying to fill the void left by Post 285′s demise. The local program - along with others across the country - have been bled in recent years by top players leaving their communities to play with elite travel teams.
“I’m kind of leaning toward developing a travel-ball type schedule and playing in showcases” sid Pickrel, who will continue to run a prep league local schedule “That’s with the idea of keeping the kids together and not having them go elsewhere to play.”
It’s a work in progress, just like the 2018 Silver Streaks, who have been holding open gym workouts three times a week since the first week of November.
“It’s been going pretty good,” said Pickrel. “I’m just excited for spring to get here.”
Official practice starts Feb. 26. First competition could come in mid-March with a three-game trip to Jacksonville.