It was an ending fit for a movie.
It was an ending fit for a movie.
Scene: A freshly cut baseball field in Kilgore, Texas, last Saturday. A tie ballgame with a trip to the World Series on the line. Two on, one out in the bottom of the 9th… er, 6th — this is Little League, after all.
Sherman Bearcat 10u infielder/outfielder Derek Baker picks the story up from there:
"It was tough. The teams were both worn out and we were both trying to play our hardest. (Sherman catcher Brandon Fine) hit one out into left-center, and the runners were all tagging up because the (fielder) was really close to the ball. And he dove and he caught it, but came down and dropped it. … I was running home, and the kid just fired it home and it was the perfect throw. … So I decided to jump instead of slide, and he missed the ball."
And just like that, Sherman was headed to the 10u Dixie Youth Baseball World Series in Lexington, S.C. for the first time in history. The team rallied from a Game 1 loss to Hudson to take the next two and advance farther than anyone before them ever has.
"It was our destiny because we’re the first team to make it this far (from) Sherman," Pitcher Caleb Thompson said.
The secret ingredient to Sherman’s run of success this year, said Coach Kenny Baker, Derek’s dad, is a concept drilled by every coach in every sport in every season: Teamwork. But it’s rare, Baker said, to find a group of kids who will adopt that mantra and run with it — not to mention hit and pitch.
"They play really well together as a team," Baker said "I’ve been preaching to ‘em, but I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that 10-year-olds could grasp this concept of having each other’s back and being a good teammate. But they have grasped the concept like I have never seen a group of kids before."
Or, to put it in the words of RBI hero Fine, "If one of us has a bad play or something, other players pick them up."
With only two weeks until first pitch in Lexington, Baker and other team parents are organizing a series of fundraisers to help cover the estimated $12,000 in costs to travel to the tournament and rent hotel rooms during the tourney’s six-day run. In addition to money-raising events at Painting with a Twist and MG’s Burgers on Aug. 2 and 4, respectively, the team has also turned to crowd funding through the website GoFundMe.com.
"This has kind of been one of those things that wasn’t planned," Baker said with a chuckle, regarding the team’s success. "They keep winning, so we hate to rob them of a chance to go to the Dixie World Series. So that’s why we’re trying to do whatever we can to help."
As soon as the team takes the field, though, all those logistics will fade away. Third baseman Phoenix Grant said the team is confident it will do Texas proud as the state’s lone representative in the World Series.
"I think every game is going to be like (the third Hudson game) from now on," Grant said. "I think we’ve just got to be mentally prepared and play our hardest, and then we’ll come out with a win."
Regardless of what type of competition the team finds on the field in South Carolina, Sherman’s coach believes his group’s camaraderie will carry it, though.
"They don’t fall apart, they don’t cave under pressure, and I think it’s because they’re pulling for each other," Baker said. "In my eyes, that’s the most important quality they’ve got going for them right now."