Some of Hays County’s youngest athletes had the unique opportunity of experiencing teamwork, sportsmanship and the importance of community during the baseball world series last week.
The 6U Shetland All-Stars team, a tee-ball team part of the Hays Youth Baseball and Softball Association (HYBSA), competed at the Pony World Series in Youngsville, Louisiana from July 21 to July 24.
The Hays Shetland team consists of local Hays County kids aged 4 to 6. After the regular baseball season, which ran from February to May, 13 players were selected for the all-stars team in late May after tryouts.
The all-stars team was led by head coach Philip Daigle and assistant coaches Kris Beasley, Chelsea Romanowski and Andrew Rodriguez. After competing in three tournaments, the team secured a spot to compete in the Pony World Series and had a month to prepare for the games.
In preparation for the series, the team practiced up to four times a week in the mornings or evenings. Beasley said the kids were very excited about the prospect of going to Louisiana.
“They thought it was the coolest thing,” Beasley said. “Every practice, it’s all they could talk about. We showed them that we were traveling outside of Texas and competing against kids from other states. To be able to do that is something they’re going to always remember.”
To raise money for the series, the team held a BBQ benefit on July 10 and a fundraiser through MOD Pizza in Kyle where a percentage of sales went to the team if customers said they were supporting HYBSA.
Along with donations from numerous parents, friends, local sponsors and other community members, HYBSA’s Mustang team, consisting of 9- and 10-year-old players, and Bronco team, consisting of 11- and 12-year-old players, also donated money.
The team played a total of five games at the World Series. Although Hays didn’t win, assistant coach Andrew Rodriguez said that each player’s willingness to better themselves and ability to face their fears head on knowing what they were competing against showed how far they can go, and made them grow closer together.
“Even off the field, their bond grew just from hanging out together at the hotel or our family dinners,” Rodriguez said. “I have no doubt in my mind this experience will push each and every one of them to work harder in the next season and seasons to come. They have taught me so much more than we were able to teach them in such a short time together.”
One player in particular, five-year-old Lydia Lopez, had the experience of being the only girl on the team. Her mother Melody Lopez said that Lydia fit right in and was happy to be out on the field playing with them.
“She just wanted to be one of the boys,” Lopez said. “We talked to her about playing softball, but she didn’t want to. She wants to play with the boys, being tough, getting dirty and doing all the same things they do.”
Lopez said that Lydia, who will continue playing baseball in the fall with the boys, tends to stand out on the field. She even caught the attention of an umpire during the team’s regular season, who gave Lydia a signed game ball and said that despite rarely seeing girls out on the field with the boys, players like her with great attitudes tend to go far in the sport.
Lopez also praised the entire team’s efforts, saying they all kept a great attitude throughout the journey.
“All of the kids were so great,” Lopez said. “They didn’t complain; they loved it. Even in the heat. They all really impressed us.”
Beasley, who grew up playing baseball for Hays, said it was an honor to coach the kids at the same fields he grew up playing on.
“To be able to come back full circle and see what those kids are doing at their age is way beyond what my generation did at their age,” Beasley said. “The comprehension of the sport; the ability to stay focused throughout the tournaments. You could see it in their eyes and the way they played that they were giving it everything they had. They were so committed to the team.”
The team’s coaches and parents also stressed the importance of how much the community has helped the team.
Lopez said that along with support from the Kyle Fire Department, which brought their fire trucks out to send the team off to the World Series, and the Kyle Police Department, which bought plates during the BBQ fundraiser, the community as a whole contributed greatly.
“The community did everything they could for the kids,” Lopez said. “It really did surprise us how much everyone wanted to take part in helping out and showing up to the games. It was really nice.”
Beasley said that despite the results not being what the team had hoped for, it was an honor to coach the kids and see what they were able to achieve together.
“That’s the thing about sports,” Beasley said. “There are so many life lessons to be taught. You fall down, you get back up. You get hurt, you get back up. You’re on the field for your teammates. To be part of something that is bigger than yourself, and for these kids to be able to understand that at four, five and six, just blows my mind. It was truly an honor.”