May 23, 2013
By Mason Nesbitt, TMC Sports Information Intern
LEWISTON, IDAHO—There’s a scene in The Sandlot that depicts The Fourth of July. The narrator essentially says that Benny Rodriguez was going to go on to bigger and better things, but for the rest of them, playing under the “lights” that night was as close to the big leagues as they’d get.
Some players on The Master’s College baseball team are going to go on to bigger and better things. But for a lot of us, Thursday was as close to the majors as we’re going to get.
As we walked onto the playground at Camelot Elementary School, kids yelled, “They’re Here!” Four-feet-tall autograph seekers instantly rushed us; my own parents don’t get that excited when I go home to Wisconsin for winter break.
The kids didn’t care who was leading the team in batting average or ERA; they treated all of us like Albert Pujols or Clayton Kershaw. And the fact that I’d pegged one hitter three times in a single scrimmage didn’t keep kid after kid from shoving baseballs, papers and hats into my face to be signed. One little girl finally said, “Stop shoving papers in his face, how would you like it if papers were shoved in your face.” What a sweetheart.
Not every kid was so sweet.
One youngster told Tucker Richardson, a six-foot-seven tall reliever, “You’re tall and you’re scaring me.” Another told me that he had a baseball game tonight, but when I asked who he was playing against he replied, “I don’t know, I’m only in second grade.”
The kids were great though, and that visit will undoubtedly be a highlight of the trip.
Before our school visit, we had breakfast coupled with a short Bible study led by our head coach Monte Brooks. I’ve known Brooks for four years, and what really stands out about him is that he wants his players to know and love Jesus Christ. It’s such a blessing to play for a coach that pushes us toward our Savior.
After breakfast, we practiced at Harris Field on the campus of Lewis-Clark State College (the host of the tournament). The position players saw the stadium yesterday, but for the pitchers and those of us without a position it was our first time.
And for the last week and a half, we’ve heard lore of the thousands of people that attend the NAIA World Series. While I can’t say yet whether that’s true, I can tell you the stadium certainly has the capacity for it.
As soon as you enter the stadium you come face-to-face with LC State’s success. Posters of former LC State players who made it to the big leagues cover the back of the bleachers (Keith Foulke, Brendan Ryan and Marvin Benard the most notable) and NAIA World Series champion pennants hang over your head as you walk to the dugout (16 to be exact).
But a huge stadium, major league alumni and unfamiliar teams with impressive win-loss records doesn’t seem to be intimidating any Mustangs. Honestly, you’d never know by the team’s demeanor that we’re playing in the World Series tomorrow. Everybody’s been loose and relaxed.
There’s a confidence on this team that manifested itself repeatedly during the season in comeback wins, most recently in overcoming a 4-0 deficit against San Diego Christian that secured a trip to Lewiston.
It’s a confidence that was present even before the season began when players talked about winning the national championship, a feat that seemed like a long shot after dropping three games to Arizona Christian on April 12-13. But it’s a feat that’s now well within grasp.