Team of 10-12 year-olds heads to eastern Oregon in championship quest
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Ashland Little League’s 10-12-year-old Major boys are headed to the state tournament on Friday, a first for the division that Manager Adam Shea can remember.
Shea said he and his fellow coaches, Josh Stanton, Ty Haggard, and Devin Mahoney, who grew up playing ball together in Ashland, never made it to the state tournament as players. This time around, with a new roster carrying the dream of a championship title forward, they’ll travel with their team to Hermiston this weekend to vie for a berth at Regionals.
“I’m feeling great, our kids are very positive,” Shea said on Wednesday about going to state. “This entire year, everybody’s said our hitting has been top-notch, we have some great pitching. I’m confident that our kids are going to go up there and have some fun, and if they’re winning they’re having fun. It’s hard to have fun in this context when you’re not winning.
“In the moment you want to feel that success, you want to jump around with your teammates,” he added, “and be excited that you won.”
The team is going to Hermiston with the support of the community behind them.
Stanton, one of the coaches, is also CEO and president of Blackstone Audio. The company’s website Downpour.com is going to match community donations up to $3,000, according to Shea. Shea anticipates that the group has raised at least $8,000 total toward bringing the kids and their families to the tournament for the weekend.
The funds will help families stay for up to six days in a hotel as well as pay for gas to and from Hermiston.
Shea believes there were more teams in the tournament when he was growing up and that diminished numbers could be due to more kids choosing to play year-around tournament baseball, which is outside of Little League.
“We do want to keep Little League around, it’s good for developing kids,” Shea said, referencing Tee Ball through Major divisions. “Without Little League, there wouldn’t be a lot of opportunity to have kids develop.”
Shea emphasized that the skill set required in baseball is much more diverse than other sports. It also requires a “stick-to-it-ive-ness” to shake off the mistakes, and quickly.
“Baseball is inherently a game of failure,” Shea said. “I think the biggest obstacle for kids this age is getting past the part in their head that says, ‘I’ve failed or I’ve made a mistake and knowing that there’s a play coming right after and you really just have to forget about what just happened.’”
“It actually applies to everything in our lives, right?” he added. He wants them to go into the tournament, “remembering that they’re all great baseball players, they’re on this team for a reason.”
Last year, Ashland’s 50.70 team, made up of 13-year-olds, won the state tournament, Shea said.
“That was the first team from Ashland to really ever do anything,” Shea said.
This year, it is the Major boys’ turn.
And playing in the tournament will be even more special since Shea’s son, Jack, will turn 12 on Sunday during the tournament.
“Getting the kids to believe that no matter how many runs you’re down, that baseball is a game of streaks,” he said. “You get four or five hits in a row and you’re scoring runs.
“Even if you’re down five runs, believing in yourselves, believing in the possibility that the thing that you want to happen can happen no matter how bleak it seems.
“Not just for baseball … for life in general,” he added.
For the coaches who once were teammates, it’ll also be a special moment.
“We all were on All-Star teams together,” Shea said of his teammates growing up, “but, we never went to State.”
Now they will, and they’re bringing their kids with them.
And Shea hopes they come away with much more than a victory, too, knowing that “effort equates to success.
“If you put in the work and the time, you’re going to get a reward,” Shea said. “The more effort you put in, the more substantial the reward.
“Even if we don’t win, the bigger picture is that we have an amazing group of kids that are really good at baseball,” he added.
One player who won’t be joining them this weekend is utility player Guthrie MacDonald. He’s trading his bat and glove in for his fiddle for the next week. The 11-year-old will be in Ireland playing the fiddle with a local group from Ashland.
Shea said McDonald will be missed on the field, but that if the team advances, he will join them at Regionals.
The public can watch the tournament games via Livestream on the Hermiston Little League Facebook page throughout the weekend at facebook.com/hermistonlittleleague. The first game starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 16, in Hermiston, with games possibly through Thursday, July 21.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 15 update: Spelling of Guthrie MacDonald’s name corrected.