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Belmont Bandits 11U baseball team

 

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Jun 14, 2019 - Bandits take on the older brother

This weekend the Belmont Bandits will participate in the 12u National part of the Top Gun "Battle for the Chains" tournament. We have played "up" in an age division before, and understand that it is a big jump to compete against guys that can be a whole year (or in the case of about half our team) two years older than you are. Still - we are not adverse to meeting challenges, and trying our best to figure a way through them. We do not think we are too good to play against 11u competition....as seen in our last Top Gun tournament where we went 2-2. This jump had been planned for a while, and we hope to give the other teams good games.

This year we are sitting at 20-7 on the year, and have been beaten by some very formidable opponents. When you play a year up in anything- much less travel baseball - you are looking for that same type of challenge. Including this tournament, we have just three left to play in this baseball year. We will then retire our John Tommy arms to play football, and let the Tommy John players keep on throwing through the fall.

Everyone is worried about size in every sport you see. It doesn't matter what sport....."big", "tall", "huge" are words you will hear people openly worried about when you face an opponent. Out of our ten players, our team AVERAGES less than 105 pounds per guy. I don't think size matters in baseball a whole lot, or other sports. Big and good matter....with an emphasis on the good part. We aren't a big team, but more importantly we aren't an older travel team. You can go make a team of May-June birthdates....a lot of guys who will be travel ball stars are such guys who are the oldest player on the field. Age is MUCH more important in travel baseball than size is. So, the point is that we hold no advantages...especially this weekend. Sometimes you just gotta throw the boys into the deep end of the pool. What I can tell you is this....just like last year at the Shipyard when we played against two teams that were an entire whole year older AND Division 1 rated, we weren't doing it to pad our W/L record. This is about the kids facing a new challenge, and learning to adapt. They will need that in the upcoming years as they try out for various sports teams.

This weekend we are set to play at 12:30 vs. the Stewards of the Game STORM team at Westmoreland. We have a one game break, and then will play the Harrisburg Hornets at 4pm. I hope the boys come ready to play our brand of baseball, because as everyone at the field knows a baseball game, or inning, can change on a dime. You can go from being up 11-0 to down 14-11 in about ten minutes...or vice versa. Good luck to our boys.

Special thanks to our dads, step-dads, grandfathers, boyfriends of moms, uncles - everyone who is in our circle. We mention it to our boys a lot at practice throughout the year...so i want to remind you of the same thing:  we very much appreciate the time you put into these young men, rooting for them, showing up and watching and just being around. It makes a big difference. Adult males (I could give one more adjective to this statement, but I won't) are the least celebrated person in our society. I understand why. I know who the media is directed towards pleasing...and it guys who look like us. I understand that the butt of 95% of the TV commercial jokes is the adult male (usually dad).....but without the dads we have on our team and all over the nation that look just like you - things in this country would crumble. Thank you for doing what you do, and helping to raise good young men. When you expect better, you get better. Communities strengthen and disintegrate around us all the time. Helping to raise people that you want to be your neighbor matters a whole bunch. All kinds of eyes are watching around the community, but the most important set of eyes watching are the ones in the passenger's seat you drive home from practice and games so often.

May 28, 2019 - Cal Ripken Tournament in TN vs. national competition

The Belmont Bandits played in the Cal Ripken Memorial Day tournament in Pigeon Forge, TN this past weekend and oh what a memorable time it was. It is always fun to measure up versus what the rest of the nation is doing, and see how they look on the field. We were able to play teams from OH, GA, TN and Missouri/Illinois (same team) during our play at the park. Reflection of our time spent in the mountains and introspection has a way of injecting humility and appreciation to our trip...even if we did not win the tournament. Our initial day's success snowballed our expectations into a sudden let down due to the pool/seeding process, but that does not take away the fun or memories that will never leave our minds. We went 3-1 on the weekend, but did not make the championship series. It was a success, it wasn't a success....just like life, the truth lies somewhere in between those grey lines. But for our play that began on Saturday, the only lines that mattered were the white ones that we played within, and we brought our best effort on day one without question.

We played in “pool D”…..a randomly grouped pool. There were four teams in each pool, and four total pools totaling sixteen teams in all. We ended up being in one of (and probably the) toughest pools of play…as we all beat up on each other during pool play. We had the Knoxville Stars (ranked #4 in TN), Mizuno- ATL team (ranked #5 in GA) and Miami Valley Prospects out of OH (we don’t know a rank, only that they came into this tournament 30-7). We were the fourth team in our pod of course.  We beat the Knoxville team, Knoxville beat ATL-Mizuno and then ATL-Mizuno beat our team….but we ended up being on the outside looking in once our initial three games were tallied. The team that beat us, ATL-Mizuno, were beaten by the eventual winner (Five Star DeMarini), and Knoxville played in the championship game and lost to that same Five Star DeMarini team. So, we didn’t make the final 8 grouping of championship series play for Monday. The Carolina Cannons, a local team we are familiar with, were also in a very tough bracket with the eventual winner (Five Star) playing in it. The two other pods gave much easier roads to the final 8 ranking, so we were a couple runs outside the championship play when all said and done, and at a record of 2-1 we had a consolation game to play on Monday morning. The blind seeding process isn’t totally fair, but just like in baseball you have to try to balance some bad luck with controlling the parts that we can take care of – and we didn’t win our third game when we needed it and that loss landed us out of the competition series in which we wanted to play. Thanks to all the families and extended families that took the trip with us, and showed their support. It was great to see so much red and black on display when we clashed with others wearing different colored war paint.

Saturday we faced the Knoxville Stars 11U team in our first game. They’re ranked #4 in the state of Tennessee in USSSA rankings, and play in big tournaments regularly. We had a complete team victory over them and did so while withstanding the antics that some teams (more so their fans) do in an effort to win a youth baseball game. Our boys learned a lot this weekend about rising above such opponent antics and beating a team, coaches and adult fans that would try any little thing to win a game. Our boys fought hard and clean, and did so with pride and class. When you’re drowning though, you grab onto anything you can find - I guess. It just so happened that the important thing that was happening - the game itself - was really a great one. Our early lead was diminished, but the Bandits were able to hold on to victory versus a great ball club. Their play is stellar, and we were very proud of our efforts on the field as well because that play proved to be the reason why we ended up with the win and retained the pride of being a clean competitor. We won this game 6-5 in impressive, controlling fashion.

Game two on Saturday was versus a team out of Troy, OH – Miami Valley Prospects, 11u. They have a great reputation and organization, as seen here:  https://miamivalleyprospects.website.siplay.com . We played very well in this game, and ended up cruising to a big 20-5 win. We were able to pitch a lot of guys this weekend, including many guys that have not pitched a whole lot in ballgames this year. All the pitching was really good, and most impressively was done against the best group of offensive competition we have faced this year. We left Saturday feeling pretty good at 2-0, but still had to face the #5 ranked 11u team in the state of Georgia on Sunday. That’s what we signed up for, so we showed up on Sunday to play our one and only game.

We had the third and final team in our pool to compete against on Sunday, Mizuno-ATL. We lost this game 13-5 to a superb team. They are very well coached and their players are super talented. We saw the best 11u pitcher I’ve ever seen….a hard throwing lefty with perfect control and knowledge of how to pitch. The game was closer than the 13-5 score for the first few innings, but mid-way through the game, we let the score get out of hand a little bit. There is no shame in it – because they belted HRs and put the ball in play enough that our defense and pitching eventually just gave in. We certainly didn’t play near our best but getting beaten by teams like that is nothing to be ashamed about.

On Monday we played our 8am consolation game versus the Hitmen – Bovinett out of Saint Louis. As a Cardinals fan, I was happy to play against a team from the IL/MO area. One of their coaches told us that they have the son of the great catcher from the SL Cardinals, Yadier Molina, that typically plays with them. He wasn’t at this particular tournament with them this weekend, but still a fun fact. We did not play well at all, and despite trying to avoid a let down since we barely missed the competition series we most certainly played terribly in this game. We did win the game 7-6, and kept control the entire second half of the game but it was a comedy of errors in all phases of the game for the most part. I would have liked to have seen us finish up strong and play the way we normally do, but 8am games for 11 year olds on vacation provide some twists in the road that would make Tennessee mountain land roads envious. We did wind up winning our last game, and ended the weekend 3-1 overall.

The #10 ranked team in the nation, Five Star DeMarini, plays out of the greater Jacksonville, FL area. This team is phenomenal and won our tournament by beating the Knoxville Stars crowd that we defeated on day one of the tournament. So, that #10 national team proved how good they are by beating the team that beat us in the semi-finals (Mizuno-ATL) by a score of 9-4, as well as beating the Knoxville team in the championship game by a score of 11-8. We didn’t get to see Five Star on the field, but if they beat both Knoxville and Mizuno-ATL that means their #10 national ranking is justified for sure.

So, this weekend we faced teams out of all over the nation, and from big metro areas and large multi-county suburban grouped teams. We normally see teams on the weekends comprised of players that live within an hour of each other, and they all come together and play on the same team against our small town boys. But, our Shipyard tournament, this event and upcoming like events down in Savannah and Top Gun summer nationals at Myrtle Beach provide something a little different than the local teams normally do. This is who we competed on the field against this Memorial Day weekend:

-Knoxville Stars;  200,000 population. They are listed as being out of Lenoir City, TN…but just like the Mizuno-ATL team, when you pull from an area that may be an hour or two away from another player – you centralize your location team name.

-Miami Valley; This group is located between Columbus and Cincinnati….and based out of Troy, OH which has over 25,000 population plus the neighboring towns, cities and counties that help supply their local talent to this 11u team we played.

-Mizuno-ATL; Atlanta, GA has a 500,000 population. This team is technically out of Mableton, GA….but when you have players from 9 different town/cities that will play on 8 different HS teams out of your 11 players on the roster, you know the competition to just be on that team is fierce, and the product of their play has to remain stellar to continue to hold your spot. Google where Rock Mart, Silver Creek and Cedartown, GA are in relation to Mableton, GA to get an idea of the wide area feeding this group.... I can assure you that you wouldn't want to drive that far into work every day.

-Hitmen (Bovinett); St Louis; 325,000 population. Though this group is listed as being out of Caseyville, IL, their coaches told us a couple of times they’re out of the greater Saint Louis area. Last year’s Perfect Game record (as 10u) was 5-4-1 and they had kids out of 9 different town/cities, including two states.

I’ve said this before, and I want to reiterate it because it is important to know the type of position your kids are put in on while playing for this team… it is a great but also tough one. They are asked to compete like no other group of small town kids around here has done before. There are often major yarns spun and usually outright lies told about what some other team from two or twenty years ago did in and around our area. But, there have been no Belmont, or any team from Gaston County that I know about in the last fifty years, to go play, compete and win against national competition like this before. There definitely hasn’t been a small town team with kids who live within a few square miles of each other do it. We don’t have one stud player on our team from Kings Mountain or some other local region, much less Winston Salem. We go and compete against teams that pick and choose their players from hundreds of kids that try out to be on those teams, and that are made up of players that live hundreds of miles apart.  It’s a privilege to be in this position, and our coaching staff does not take it lightly. The main point is….depending on if these kids are interested in continuing to play, and/or good enough to keep playing – they’re all set to go to the same HS and are competing against groups playing together now that are comprised of multi county, state and regional areas where little to none of the kids will continue to play together. That is something special. We do it during baseball season, too. We don’t do year-round pitching and hitting lessons. We have done lessons, by our coaches or former players, for about a month or two and in groups of 2-4 right before the season. Why do we do groups of 2-4? Because you get to hear the same thing two or three times, and only have to perform the movement 1/3 or 1/ 4 of the time while seeing it 2-3 times done up close by others. We don’t throw baseball year round;  we practice and play baseball from mid to late January through July. We have football, basketball, soccer players as well as swimmers and motocross riders on our team that do those things during the times you should be participating in them. It’s an old school and possibly joint and tendon-saving approach…we like to watch your player get better during the baseball season. Throwing the equivalent to two seasons before a baseball year ever starts in pitching lessons will probably make you look like the best pitcher on the team in February….so enjoy that while it’s here. Because in May-July it will eventually catch up to you. If you have thrown 8-9 months out of the year for three or four years to make sure you are amongst the best pitchers around, that Travel ball coach isn't the problem. Although we saw plenty of facility guys this weekend, we also saw a lot of very talented players. Let’s just hope for their sake that their parents find the right balance of work / rest / other interests that will promote longevity to keep them playing baseball. 3 and 1 versus what we saw this weekend ain’t too bad doing it the way we do it.

May 22, 2019 - 2-2 on the weekend

The Bandits stunk it up this past weekend. We went 2-2, but what was most apparent was the lackluster effort and focus that was on display from our team. I guess the first hot weekend of play took a toll on us, because we weren't sharp in very many areas. For a team that prides itself on being tough in all areas of play, we were soft and weak. Baseball is played in the heat, so we had better get used to it quickly.

With EOGs this week, school coming to an end in site plus this weekend's pending trip....there is a lot going on so our one practice this week will have to be enough. Maybe with some time away the boys will have a renewed spirit and ambition to perform their best. 2-2 isn't the problem. We lost two games to a good team. The fact that we played very badly in three of our four games was the bigger problem. The team that beat us beat another top ten ranked team in NC...and went on to win the tournament. They were prepared to play, and battled from first to last inning in every game. We don't play the little sisters of the poor, so it doesn't take much to get spanked real quick.  Playing with pride, playing to impress and being satisfied with the contribution you gave your teammates are things that we talk about doing a whole lot. I would expect to see more of that the rest of the season.

You are going to lose games in baseball...especially if you play more than 15-20 games. If you play against the top competition, those loss chances increase. We aren't focused on the losses;  but experience and growth can only come if you give yourself fully to the game. A man who has lost isn't the loser. The loser is the man who is too scared to see how he measures up, and pretends he is good enough without ever trying. We remind our boys constantly...be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.

We hope to have fun playing in Pigeon Forge this weekend. Seeing teams from all over the nation is very fun. Seeing top teams from all over the nation isn't always fun - but it is eye-opening and offers competitors a chance to prove judge themselves against great teams and players from different parts of our country. We look forward to going, and can't wait to see that enthusiastic, sharp play that we have seen so many other times before.

 

May 6, 2019 - Championship belts all the fashion rage for the Bandits

Blackbeard is reportedly quoted in history as having said "“It is a blessing for a man to have a hand in determining his own fate” ...

It was a rainy, fun weekend in Gastonia at the Top Gun tournament. While they were playing and watching golf in Charlotte, we were playing baseball in Gaston County. We had a bunch of tough tests this weekend, as we had to play the #17 team in the state in game one on Saturday, the LKN Hurricanes 11u. We came away with a 7-2 win against LKN in a rain-shortened affair. We ended up not being able to play our second game due to heavy rains moving in on Saturday. With other teams getting both games in, and our only having the one to stand on - we were the #3 seed in the Gold bracket of the American division.

On Sunday, we came out ready to play and had to face the #14 team in the state, which is also ranked #5 regionally in the Charlotte Metro area- Copperheads Snell/Heis. So, we had two very tough teams to play out of our first two games in this tournament. We have become accustomed to having to face this, and beating these really good teams consistently is a hard thing to do. Anybody can beat anybody at any time in baseball...so getting by those teams was a relief. We won against the Copperheads Snell/Heis team by a score of 7-1. That win propelled us into the Gold Championship to face the winner of the CBC Baseball Club and Carolina Cannons winner who were playing in the other semi-final. The Cannons won that game, and so we had a new/old foe to play against in the final. The boys each won themselves a championship belt, and so they had a lot of fun after the game celebrating. We ask a lot of them on the practice and game field, so when it's time to celebrate - it's always a good thing.

First things first...the Carolina Cannons are out of Fort Mill...so they're to be ranked in the SC state rankings. They are 14-12, but absolutely should be ranked in the state. They are an extremely good ball team and program. Their coaches and players know what they're doing, and it shows. They've lost to our team 4 times, the Copperheads Snell/Heis team 4 times and the Dirtbags Black team 1 time out of those 12 losses. So, as usual around the Charlotte Metro area...we all beat up on each other. Our weekends are like the SEC in college football around here....some teams' records look one way on paper, but you see them play and realize they would probably be a top team in about every other conference. The Cannons won their way into the Championship (as usual), and so we had to face them yet again. They won a Gold Championship last weekend, so they were primed to give us a great shot.

We played them in a tightly contested game. We were up 3-0 through half the way, then they found a way to get three runs on the board and tie the game 3-3. The Bandits came back with a surge and notched a 9-3 score, but the Cannons loaded their cannonballs and set aim for our pirate ship. Sure enough -  they cut the lead to 9-7 and with bases loaded in the last inning, we were able to escape with the victory. We can't say enough about that team because they, like our team, seem to always have a tough road to get to the finals. I'm proud of them for having great attitudes and competing so well every time we see them.

I'm also proud of our boys as we had a great weekend of team play. Every one of our players had a great contribution to our wins somewhere...defense, pitching, base running or hitting. We had good attitudes and a fun bench...which makes baseball more fun anyway. We have some spring football (HS) and MS playoffs this week mixed in with some pending rain, so we may practice one or two times if we are lucky. Mother's Day is coming up, and we eyed possibly playing a one-day, but are going to take this weekend off. So - an early 'Happy Mother's Day' to all our Bandit moms, step moms, grandmaws and anybody who plays a maternal role in these boys' lives...you are doing a great job, and we appreciate it because it makes coaching your boys much easier!

Largo Como Los Bandidos

Apr 30, 2019 - Back to Baseball

We will finally begin to get some practice in now, and hopefully get into a groove for the rest of the season where our good practice parallels our play. Between early season rain, and the recent Easter/Spring Break combo we have lost a lot of baseball time. Tonight we get back to normal, and re-acquaint ourselves with the seamed white ball.

It's time to get aggressive and work on getting better. While others work on calisthenics....I'm not even sure how to spell that....we will work on some things you will find on google like Baltimore Choppers and other parts of baseball that you can't google. From now (late April) to June we should be able to get in some much-needed consistent practice that has evaded our team thus far this year.  We have some big tournaments coming up, against very strong local competition, as well as top national competition so now is the time to get right between the lines and between the ears. See yall at the place where baseball players are made....at the practice field.

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