When the Brentwood Blast 12U Travel Baseball Team left for New York last month to compete in a tournament at Cooperstown All-Star Village, members knew the team would witness history during its stop at the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
By the end of the five-day trip, however, the team had actually made history for all to see. The squad of 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds finished 10-0 in the 30-team tournament to become the first team from Northern California to win the event.
“I knew going in we had a really good shot at doing well, but you play so many games that you don’t know how the kids are going to respond,” said Blast head coach Mark Petures.
After blasting through teams from Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Raleigh during pool play, the team continued to knock off squads from San Diego and other Texas cities in the playoffs before defeating the Fresno A’s 4-1 for the championship.
Down by two runs with two outs in the final inning of the semifinal contest, Brenden Bell launched a three-run, walk-off home run in order to send the squad to the title game against Fresno.
“It was pretty emotional,” Bell said. “I didn’t want to get out.”
Feeding off of the momentum, Nate McCurdy blasted a home run during the team’s first at-bat of the championship game, while pitcher Ian Davis dominated from start to finish, striking out 13 of 18 batters in a complete game effort.
“Once they got to the championship game there was no stopping them,” Petures said. “They had all the confidence in the world.”
The historic win was a perfect finish to a memorable trip.
The team also visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum during its travels and was in attendance to watch New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez collect his 3,000th hit, a home run, at Yankee Stadium on June 19.
Back at practice on Tuesday, the youngsters struggled to pinpoint the most exciting moment of the trip. Many players said it was Bell’s astounding performance that highlighted the trip, while others said seeing Rodriguez’s big hit live had meant the most and still more remarked how seeing bits of history at the museum - including Babe Ruth’s golf ball as well as artifacts from the San Francisco Giants’ World Championship run - would forever stick in their minds.
“(Visiting the Hall of Fame) was the dream,” said Davis, who noted that some players got emotional just looking at the history before them. “It’s like a one-chance thing.”
When the Blast players weren’t witnessing or making history, they were living like big-league players, eating, sleeping and co-existing without their parents.
Sleeping in the same area as a group of youngsters made for an interesting and loud experience, Petures said, but it was all part of a special trip. The organization spent about two years fundraising for the journey, which cost $15,000 for the 11 players, including Brad Ehlen, Jake Guardiancic, Griffin Snyder, Andrew Silva, Parker Judy, Tyler Madden, Ryan Troye, Markus Petures, Brenden Bell, Ian Davis and Nate McCurdy.
“They will probably never get back there again, so that is why this is such an important trip for 12-year-olds playing baseball,” Petures said.
The Blast will hold open tryouts for its 2016 squad Sunday, August 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sunset Park, located at 655 Sunset Road, in Brentwood.