Several 12-year old neighborhood boys ended their time with the Warriors Youth Baseball Academy by finishing in 9th place out of 104 teams at the Cooperstown Dreams Park on August 3rd. This finish was beyond expectations and a testament to the nearly 200 games the boys have played in the last two years.
Background on The Warriors
The Warriors started as a 10U travel team in the spring of 2010. David Adams recruited Milinda McNeely, Pete Rose and their sons (Tiger Adams, Avery Plum and Isaac Rose) to form a team to compete in weekend long tournaments during the summer of 2010. They invited the best players they could find from Wilshire baseball to form a 10U team (10 and younger as of April 2010). They had their first practice and allowed the boys to come up with the name. In a matter of minutes they chose the name “The Warriors.” They played their first game on July 24, 2010. They lost 23-0.
Over the course of the summer Adams invited whoever was available to play on the team. By fall, there were nearly 20 kids on the extended roster. Half of the boys had aged up to 11U. Adams recruited Jeff Rake to manage a new 10U team consisting of the younger Warriors players, including his sons Evan and Joey. The 10U team competed in fall 2010 in the East Valley recreational league and won a majority of their games. The 11U team signed up for a competitive travel league, the California Amateur Baseball Association (CABA). The Warriors 11U team lost all but one game. The boys were trying hard but were still behind the curve. There were some games where Adams admits, “I was simply out coached. I was getting a little discouraged.”
At the end of fall 2010, Adams was introduced to Ryne Tacker. Ryne played professional baseball on the A’s minor team and in college at Rice University. Ryne expressed interest in helping with the Warriors and he was quickly put in charge of games and practices.
The reputation of the Warriors started to get around the neighborhood. By spring 2011 and they were able to form an 8U team. Rake and Adams were receiving several inquiries from other fathers who wanted to start additional teams. They realized that there was obviously a need for a year-round, competitive baseball program in the neighborhood. By fall 2011, their existing teams aged up to 12U, 11U and 9U. They formed new teams for 10U, 8U, 7U and 6U. They also formalized Warriors Youth Baseball Academy as a non-profit organization. The Warriors were on their way!
By Spring 2012, they had seven travel teams competing in weekly travel games and introduced a recreational league at Pan Pacific Park. The older travel teams (12U, 11U and 10U) competed in a travel league at Mid Valley Baseball. Their 9U team competed in CABA. 8U, 7U and 6U played regular games against other leagues. All teams competed in at least two weekend long tournaments in the summer of 2012.
The Cooperstown Experience
Cooperstown, located in upstate New York, is famous as the hometown of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooperstown Dreams Park (about 10 minutes from the museum) hosts 104 12U teams (twelve and under as of April 30) each week for a 13-week period from the beginning of June through the end of August. The tournament attracts teams from across the country who stay in team barracks. Teams check in on Saturday, have opening ceremonies and compete in a skills competition. Each team plays two games a day from Sunday through Tuesday to establish seeding. Wednesday starts single elimination playoffs with the championship game on Thursday night.
Adams had several concerns leading up to their time in Cooperstown. Jeff Straus formed a 12U team two years ago called the “Wilshire Wild” with boys from our neighborhood. According to Strauss, they finished 98th out of 104 teams in this same tournament. This was less than encouraging and Adams was worried that the boys would treat the week like a giant sleep over and have no energy for the games. Before they checked in, Adams told the team that if they performed well they would always look back on their time at Cooperstown with pride. If they did nothing but goof around, they would regret it. They went to bed on time, ate well and performed better than they ever did the last two years.
The Warriors lost their first game on Sunday July 29th, mostly due to first game jitters. The team came back strong in the second game and defeated the Fort Wayne Cubs 8-1. Avery Plum pitched the entire game and started a 4 game winning streak for the Warriors. The Warriors lost their 6th game 8-5 against the Great Neck Breakers, landing the team in the #30 spot for seeding going into the playoffs on Wednesday. Through some hard work and luck the team made it to the sweet 16 on Thursday, August 2nd and lost to the Milwaukee Angels 9-2 to finish 9th overall.
According to Adams, it was a great end to two years of hard work for this team, especially the 5 “Original Warriors” who competed in the very first game in July 2010: Tiger Adams, Avery Plum, Isaac Rose, Ethan Fabricant and Jake Gannon. All performed great in the field – Jake at 2nd base, Avery on the mound, Isaac at catcher, Ethan in center field and Tiger at 1st base. Several players also earned a shirt for hitting at least one home run over the fence at Cooperstown. Isaac Rose and Alex Terry led the team with 3 home runs each. Tiger Adams had 2 home runs including one grand slam. Hiram Smith had two home runs as well. Nick Silk had one. Nick was the only returning player to Cooperstown. He was on the Wilshire Wild back in 2010 and was a little more upbeat about the finish this year!
Most of the boys are from our immediate neighborhood and include Tiger Adams, Avery Plum, Isaac Rose, Ethan Fabricant, Jake Gannon, Eric Johnson, Austin Lee, Finn Starzek, Nick Silk, Jack Lipman, Hiram Smith, Alex Terry and Jacob Martinez. All of the boys are 12U players with the exception of Jake Gannon and Austin Lee, who are eligible to return next year.
The cost to attend the tournament, including airfare, was approximately $20,000 and was financed entirely through donations. Milinda McNeely (Avery’s mom) led the charge and single handedly raised over 50% of the donations through a variety of creative activities. Pete Rose did a great job of tackling all the administrative paperwork associated with entering and competing in the tournament. And Ryne Tacker far exceeded everyone’s expectations – leading the team to a great finish.
Future Looks Bright
The board of directors met on July 23, 2012 to elect new officers, almost 2 years to the day from the first Warrior game. Jeff Rake was elected the new President, John Wells was elected Vice President and Chad Saul was elected Secretary. Aliza Lesser remains the Treasurer for the organization.
The Warriors are a healthy 6U-12U organization. They are always looking for new players who want to make a serious commitment to baseball. The teams play 10 months out of the year. They take a month off in August and a month off in December. The rest of the time they are playing baseball on a weekly basis. The fall program starts September 1. Anyone interested in participating in the Warrior program should contact Jeff Rake at [email protected].