A group of 11 area youth baseball players and seven area coaches drove to the baseball mecca earlier this month to compete on their field of dreams.
The Carolina Bag Boys — Jamari Thompson, Wyatt Lucas, Gabe Dapuyen, Chase Byrd, Hunter Tyndall, Jalen Evans, Braxton Davis, Ross Stevens, Evan Ward, Anthony Jones and Ty Bowen — placed fifth in a 104-team tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend. Coaches Charlie Stevens, Kevin Davis, Craig Jones, Ron Evans, Kevin Lucas, Johnson Byrd and Mark Tyndall tagged along for the ride.
The Carolina Bag Boys finished in the Elite 8, with an 8-1 record. They tallied 114 total hits and 40 home runs in nine games, scoring 114 runs.
On the defensive side, the Carolina Bag Boys struck out 68 batters and allowed only 37 runs. Many of the 11 players competed in July’s Dixie Youth Baseball World Series in Lumberton.
“This was the summer of baseball,” said coach Charlie Stevens, “From Hoke County, to Kenansville to Lumberton, to all the way to New York, we haven’t stopped.”
Stevens, other coaches and the players have been playing highly-competitive baseball for nearly two straight months, losing only four games in that timespan. They lost one game in the state tournament, two in the World Series and one this weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“You’re not going to be 12 (years old) but one time. If there’s ever a time to do it, this is the time,” Stevens said.
The Carolina Bag Boys’ only loss came to Team Sidious. Team Sidious is comprised of players from four different states, Stevens said, and they have Major League Baseball players train the them.
“We played some very, very high level baseball,” he said. “That’s all they do, that team is handpicked. They fly kids in to pitch one game and fly them back out. ... You can go as far as you can being a Harnett County and Sampson County team but — when you’re flying kids in just to play one game — that’s a lot.”
Sidious jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first inning of the Dunn team’s only loss. The Bag Boys scored four runs in the second inning, but weren’t able to mount the comeback needed to overthrow such a uniquely talented team of interstate all-stars.
“I’m proud of the boys. We had a really, really good time,” Stevens said. “I would say — as a parent or as a coach — if anybody really wants to experience baseball, they have to go to Cooperstown.”
The boys played in the Cooperstown Dream Park, went to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and visited Doubleday Field and sat in the dugout. Stevens said to be able to sit where Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Jr. sat, immersed his players not merely into “the baseball life but the history of baseball.”
“If anybody has ever been a baseball fan in their whole life, that’s the place to go,” he said.
Stevens and his baseball family are now taking “two steps back,” he said. With the boys starting school yesterday, they will take at least a one month break from any and all things baseball.
“I told them, do not call me about baseball for at least a month,” Stevens said. “We need to give the boys a break, to be kids and breath a little bit.”
The boys were inducted into the Junior Baseball Hall of Fame and many had commemorative, engraved bats made by the Cooperstown Bat Company. Every player pitched at least an inning and nearly every player hit at least one home run.
“They made it fun for us,” Stevens said. “For the parents and the fans who came with us ... the kids are the ones who made it fun for us because they were playing so well. ... There are a lot of memories that are never going to be taken away from these kids.”