For a group of local 12- and 13-year-olds, baseball has been a big part of the past year, including learning more about the game, bonding with teammates and winning tournaments with the travel baseball team The Yard.
Their baseball world is about to grow even more this weekend, however, when they take on Cooperstown in a youth baseball tournament that features teams from across the country.
The Yard, which features players from Elk Grove, Galt, Rancho Murieta and South Sacramento, is based out of Elk Grove, and has a win-loss record of 45-6, according to Yard head coach Mike Madrigal’s estimation (the team focuses more on playing the game, not as much on win totals) and thanks to support from the local community, the team will be realizing their dreams starting this week when they tour the Baseball Hall of Fame, catch a Yankees game, and play in a national tournament.
“It’s been fun. We’re a good team. We work together,” Aidan Hall said about the team’s chemistry.
The tournament starts Friday and will run through Aug. 3.
In addition to the highlight of seeing big name stars like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, a highlight for the team is the reunion they’ll have with their teammate Adyn Patlan, who moved to North Carolina with his family but will join The Yard so that they can play in the tournament together.
Needing help with their goal of raising enough money to attend the tournament, team parents had asked community businesses if they’d like to help the team realize that dream.
The Elk Grove Auto Mall stepped up and made it possible, Madrigal said, and the team is now prepared to play baseball in baseball’s arguably most historic city.
“It’s good for these 12-year-olds to play kids from other parts of the country. They’ll make a lot of memories. My kids (Nick and Ty) are now professional baseball and high level college and they still talk about their trip to Cooperstown 10, 11 years ago,” Madrigal said while taking a break from practice on July 22 at a park in Elk Grove.
The trip will be Madrigal’s fourth trip to Cooperstown and he said the team focuses on teaching all aspects of baseball to prepare them for their future, whether it be on the field, in a classroom or out in the real world.
“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about teaching them the right way to play the game so that when they get to high school, they’re ready to compete and hopefully get to the next level, which is college,” said Madrigal.
That approach has paid off for the team, which selected its players by holding tryouts.
“We play to win. They play good baseball,” Madrigal said.
Those wins, as well as their team chemistry, will soon take them from winning local tournaments (their most recent win was at a tournament in Galt) to playing on a national stage.
Oh, and watching some games as well.
“I want to watch the Yankees game. I’m pretty excited about that,” leftfielder LJ Somera said, who wears number 2 on his jersey, just like his favorite player, Derek Jeter.