Competing in the world series is a big deal, so why not arrive in style?
That’s exactly what the Prospects Stars Blue out of Vienna, Va., did when they booked a 36-passeneger executive coach to make a nine-hour trip to Johnson City for the 2011 USSSA 13U AA Baseball World Series.
“We feel like top dogs getting to ride around in this bus,” said 13-year-old first and third baseman Sam Becker.
Complete with external storage, screens for movie viewing and plush, reclined seating, the 13 teammates never even noticed the extra two hours the trip gained after the first bus was found to have a broken door.
“They’re like a pile of puppies in the back of the bus,” said team communicator and mom Jody Becker. “They will not separate. They’re young men, but they’re children. One minute they’ll make you laugh because they’re acting like they’re two and the next they’ll make you cry because you’re so proud of them.”
One of those tender moments came during the bus ride as the Prospects Stars Blue began watching “Angles in the Outfield.” Throughout the day, the boys refused to take their hats off by stating it was “part of their pride” to wear them, but as soon as the movie started to play “The Star Spangled Banner,” the teammates began removing their hats and placing them over their hearts.
“It was such an unscripted beautiful moment of respect for their country and for the game,” Becker said.
Bonding like that couldn’t have happened without the traveling baseball team being together, nor would they have been able to make an attention-grabbing entrance into Winged Deer Park each day. In pairs of two, the team marches in line toward the dugout. The sound of their cleats hitting the concrete in unison let’s everyone know they have arrived.
“Even when we lose, it’s with class and dignity and we’re proud of our boys,” Becker said. “And we’re pretty proud of the bus, too.”
The Prospect Stars Blue are a new team, forming under the instruction of head coach Joe Carter, who’s been teaching the game since the late 1970s.
“They’re very dedicated and willing to work hard,” he said of his group of 13 players. “Basically, they’re just awesome kids that want to get better at the sport they’re playing.”
The team has had a successful season and won two tournaments that qualified them for the world series. Even though Carters says he likes the wins, he’s more concerned with teaching them as much about the games of baseball as possible, so they’ll be prepared for high school.
“There are challenges, but I’ve been doing it long enough to know what you get with 13-year-olds and I’ll be honest with you, I treat them like they’re my kids and when they mess up I put them back in line,” he said.
The idea to travel via bus came to Becker after calculating the cost of 15 families carpooling to the tournament, versus riding as a group. In order to reserve the bus, the Prospect Stars Blue began an ambitious fundraising campaign. Each player was required to raise $500 by selling at least 50 raffle tickets for a cruise package.
To solidify their group transportation, a corporate sponsor, Backflow Technology, stepped in to provide the remaining funds.
Given the importance and rarity of attending a world series, riding together on a bus made the journey even more memorable for the boys. But to make sure they won’t forget it, Carter asked them to bring a journal to record their thoughts on the big event. No matter the outcome of the tournament, the Prospects Stars Blue will still ride home in luxury.
“It’s so refreshing for our young men to have (Carter) as an example and to see his passion and knowledge for the game,” Becker said. “There’s a lot of loyalty and heartfelt love for this coach.”
The 2011 USSSA 13U AA Baseball World Series will conclude today with the championship game beginning at 2 p.m., weather permitting, at Winged Deer Park.