July 10--The U-10 Attack Baseball team's sequence of events last week was atypical.
The squad went to Disney World first. Then it won a championship.
The 10-and-under traveling baseball team -- featuring players from Myrtle Beach and one from Conway -- won the Wide World Of Sports International Salute to Baseball tournament on July 5 in Orlando, Fla.
While it is a cliche in sports to go to Disney World after winning a championship, Attack Baseball made the most of already being there.
"Our goal was to go there and have fun and have the experience of a lifetime. We never dreamed we'd go and play as well as we did. We knew were capable, but we never imagined we'd do it." head coach Scotty Smith said. "The kids really embraced the tournament and played good baseball. We were ecstatic [to win]. You never know what to expect when [the coaches are] talking baseball and [the kids] are talking about water parks and rides."
Part of the cost of playing in the tournament included free Disney World tickets for the players and their families, so it was baseball by day and amusement park by night.
On Day 1, it appeared the highlight of the trip might be away from the field as Attack Baseball lost its first game 14-1 to Panama City, Fla.'s Bashers. But the squad won its next three games to emerge as one of two teams -- the No. 2 seed -- out of five to advance from its pool-play division to the championship bracket. Attack Baseball beat the Waterdown Wolves (Canada) 24-1, Acabeis Panama 19-4 and the Dominican Republic'sLiga Enrique Cruz 12-2.
"The third day we had to play the Dominican Republic and going in we were all -- I wouldn't say nervous, but anxious -- to play them. We know so many big-time [MLB] players come from there," assistant coach Tim Johnson said. "When we run-ruled them and beat them ... at that point we thought, 'we could win this thing.' "
Attack Baseball went on to beat Miami's Young Guns 12-3 and Orlando's Team Chandler 6-3 before getting a rematch against the Bashers in the championship game. Once again, the squad's chances against the Bashers looked bleak as it was down 6-1 after two innings. However, Attack Baseball responded and built a four-run lead by the end of the fourth inning en route to a 14-7 victory.
"Our kids could have easily folded up shop and said 'hey, second place in a championship series for a little team from Myrtle Beach is respectable.' " Johnson said. "But we went out there and talked to them and fired them up, and by the end of the fourth inning we were leading 10-6."
Soon after, it was time to celebrate.
"The atmosphere was very loud with all the parents screaming and yelling. The kids were running and jumping and they did a dog pile like you would see in the Little League World Series," Johnson said.
The team was honored by the World Wide Of Sports with a ceremony, gold medals and a trophy. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans will recognize the team on July 20 at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.
Johnson called the idea to enter the tournament "a shot in the dark," but the players made fundraising efforts and the team received help from area businesses to help foot an overall bill that the assistant coach said totaled nearly $26,000. It was a special accomplishment for a tight group of youngsters of whom nearly all play recreation baseball together at Crabtree Gym.
"It was amazing. I've said all along, this is the best vacation I've ever had in my life -- as a kid or as a grownup," Johnson said. "Just being with 10 other families ... we all went to the parks together, rode rides together. We made it a team thing on the field and off."
Contact DAVID WETZEL at 626-0295.
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