Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ode to Cooperstown Dreams Park - Part One

It's one of the highlights in our seaside town when it comes to youth sports - really youth anything - when you turn 12 years old and you are halfway decent at baseball, you will be able to represent our town at the Annual Cooperstown Dreams Park Tournament.  A baseball tournament featuring over 100 teams vying for the chance to play a championship game at Little Majors ballpark and lay claim to being one of the best baseball teams in the Country.  This baseball tournament repeats itself every week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Hundreds of teams and thousands of kids play at the 22 fields all Summer, every Summer.  I think, I know, that this tournament keeps this area in business a lot more than the Baseball Hall of Fame 8 miles up the street does.

Our week begins on Friday of July 4th weekend as the kids and coaches start filing into town.  They all have hopes and dreams of playing on Thursday (the final 16 make it to Thursday playoff games).  Some are realistic, some - like our little town - are unrealistic.  Usually, for those first couple of days, the kids would gather to play wiffle ball or trade pins with other teams.  They would eat lasagna and sloppy joes and would talk about things that normal 12 year olds would talk about.  They would compare best pitchers and best hitters.  And they would talk about those stupidly expensive Mako bats.  Except for team from Wayland (about 45 minutes from us on a good day), no other team from New England made it here this weekend.  It's a crap shoot who you are going to play.

Saturday.  Opening Ceremonies.  A lot of marching around with banners.  We entered players into the HR hitting contest, a speed contest called Roadrunner and a pitching contest called the Golden Arm.  No advancement to the championship round from any of our single players.  On the other hand, we were just a second behind in the star drill however with the rest of the team.  Pins were traded, players went home happy.

First Night Game; C playing 1st Base
Sunday.  The games begin.  Because G had his own tournament on Cape Cod, we could not make it for the afternoon game.  The Manager graciously sat C for the afternoon game (everyone has to sit at least one game), which we lost to some regional AAU team from St. Louis, 14-2.  We won the night cap though led by some timely hitting (including a home run to break the 3-3 tie) and a complete game 2 hitter from one of C's buddies.  Come to find out, the team that we played from Elmhurst, Illinois was bunked right next door in the barracks.  The teams became fast friends throughout the tournament, watching each others' games and cheering each other on.  Although LC was livid that a kid pretended to make a catch right in front of us in right field and did not own up to it after the umpire called out hitter out, I guess the kids got over it pretty quickly.  

Monday.  We got beaten up pretty good by a regional team from outside of Baltimore, Maryland, the WHC Renegades.  32-0.  I have already forgotten the details of this game, except that I was thankful for the mercy rule.  The next game was a barn burner, though.  Due to heavy rains and thunderstorms, C's pitching debut was delayed from 7pm to 12:30am the next morning.  We spent time chatting with other parents and players, biding our time for the ridiculous weather to die down.  We were all a little sleepy during that game.  Undaunted by the change in starting time though, C pitched a 3 hitter with 12 strike outs to win the game 13-2.  We are now 2-2 in pool play!

C's Grand Slam Ball
Tuesday.  Even though the team didn't step out off the field until 2:30 this morning, they were back at it for the 10am game against the Mississagua Tigers, a team from just outside of Toronto.  Although they were also much larger than our seaside town, we took it their pitching early, highlighted by 3 home runs from C - including a grand slam.  Now granted, we screwed up the time of the start and missed C's 1st inning grand slam by about 5 minutes.  But we were able to catch the other two home runs.  I have to admit that I was starting to think about the Cooperstown tournament's record for most home runs in a game, which is 5.  Alas, the Manager took C out after three at-bats and he ended the game with 3 home runs and 7 RBIs.  This didn't stop C from becoming a legend as there was a buzz around the field about the "kid that hit the 3 home runs."  What a great hitting performance!  I was so proud of him.  Not only that, but we took the game over the Saugans, 15-13.  They'll probably say that they are a hockey town anyway.  The second game was not as gentle as we lost to a regional team from Central Florida, 15-4.  We ended up pool play 3-3.  One of the best showings ever from the team.

Wednesday.  The playoffs begin.  Since we were seeded 56th, we got a first round bye.  Our first game was against a team seeded 94th from New Jersey.  We handled them pretty easily, 9-3 as C went 2 for 3 and played great first base.  The second game was not pretty.  C was the starting pitcher against a team from Plainfield, Illinois.  A lot of runs were scored.  Another game that I am choosing to forget.  We ended up losing 15-3.  Although, the pats on the back were disheartening, we ended up going to friend's rented house where most of the rest of the team was.  They ended up swimming and laughing, the last loss becoming a distant memory.

Overall, what a great experience for the boys and for us as well.  The boys played great. C, who has played AAU baseball in tough conditions before really shined, leading the team in home runs while also winning one of our games for us at Pitcher.  It was a real treat to see.  And to see the look on his face after the tournament was over...Never mind the fact that he bought a baseball case almost immediately from the gift shop for the home run ball that we had inscribed.  I loved seeing the proud look on his face.   

One last thing.  I told C that his 3 home run game would be something that he would remember for the rest of his life.  What I really meant is that it is something that I would remember for the rest of my life.

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