The American Legion baseball team affiliated with Millard South has been doing things by the numbers this season.
The Patriots have 2001 alum and current Minnesota Twins pitcher Brian Duensing to thank.
Duensing is sponsoring this year's American Legion teams affiliated with the school. He has donated $10,000 for uniforms and other Legion-related expenses. In turn, the teams are now named the 52s in honor of the left-hander's number with the Twins.
“It's very cool,” Millard South baseball coach Greg Geary said. “The kids are really fired up about it, and I know Brian has always had a special connection to the school.”
Duensing, who pitched at Nebraska after Millard South, has maintained a close relationship with the Patriots' program. He helped coach the Legion team for two summers while attending NU and has taken part in fundraisers during the major league offseason.
“Brian and I have remained good friends,” Geary said. “The commitment he's made to our program is awesome.”
A third-round selection of the Twins in 2005, Duensing made Minnesota's opening-day roster in 2009 and has been pitching for the team since.
Duensing said he and his wife, Lisa, who also graduated from Millard South, had talked about taking a more active role in helping the Patriots' program. Geary brought up the idea of sponsoring the Legion team and the idea took off.
“It just kind of snowballed from there,” Duensing said. “One thing led to another, and here we are.”
Duensing is sponsoring all three Legion squads at the school — the freshmen, juniors and seniors. The colors and styles of the uniforms reflect those of the Twins, and the Legion senior team has its choice of four uniforms.
“It's awesome that someone like Brian Duensing is sponsoring us,” shortstop Jake Huscroft said. “Everybody looks up to him and everybody really wants to do well for him.”
With the Twins pitcher on board to sponsor the teams, the only thing left was to come up with a name. That took a little work, but the decision was eventually made to name the squad after Duensing's number and keep the Millard South nickname — the 52s Patriots.
“Someone wanted to call the team the B-52s,” Duensing said. “I didn't want people thinking about that band and the song 'Love Shack' all the time, so I like the 52s a lot better.”
The 52s, whether it has anything to do with Duensing, are off to a solid start. The senior team, which consists of several players from Millard South's Class A state runner-up squad in the spring, won its first six games.
“We obviously want to make him proud,” Huscroft said. “But I don't think there's any added pressure on us this season.”
Huscroft added that many opposing players don't know the back story of the new sponsor and are surprised to hear a major league pitcher is behind the team.
“They're pretty impressed by it all,” he said. “Everybody on our team is pretty impressed, too.”
Duensing, who lives with his wife in Elkhorn during the offseason, said he is happy to have his name affiliated with the team and plans to maintain his sponsorship in the future.
“I'd like to make it an ongoing thing,” he said. “I have a lot of pride in that program and I love being a part of it.”
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