The Whatcom Americans are competing in the Pacific Northwest Regional Baseball Tournament this week, hopefully continuing their winning streak as a strong first-year team. With a 31-2-1 overall record, coming off two back-to-back weekend tournament wins, the 12U team is confident.
“I personally think we stand a chance to win the whole thing,” said John Sandstrom in a phone interview as the team made the nearly 10-hour drive to Meridian, Idaho.
The Americans formed this year as a conglomerate of the best youth baseball players from across Whatcom County. Coming from the Blaine, Ferndale, Bellingham and Meridian school districts, many of the players had competed against each other in previous years.
Trent Miller, and Kobe Sandstrom are the two strongest pitchers on the team, with a rivalry history and yet being teammates has made them each stronger players.
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“We all get along really well,” Miller said. “We have different talents and we know how to work with each other.”
The season has had many memorable moments, but for Miller the greatest part is looking back and realizing how grateful he is to have made it onto this team. The friendships he has formed, having the opportunity to hangout with and get to know his teammates was the best part of the season, he said.
The entire team is excited to be going in to this tournament, Miller said. His pitching may be his strongest skill, but it is working together that he knows will earn them a win.
“I’m keeping my confidence up,” he said, “and my confidence in my teammates.”
Kobe agrees that experiencing these wins alongside a team of friends is what has him most excited about working toward another win in Idaho.
“I am looking forward to beating all the teams that we play,” he said, “and getting the good experience there.”
John is proud of the team, many of whom he has known through years of working with Whatcom youth baseball, and said he believes that if they all stay focused they can accomplish exactly what they set out for.
Staying focused is crucial, John said. The danger lies in seeing this trip as a vacation and letting the distractions tear the players away from their goal.
“I think they are ready,” he said. “We have got pretty much all the pieces in place to win.”
The regional tournament is a bonus, topping a successful state title. The Americans aim to keep up that momentum and not leave their peak performance at the state level.
As an adult working with a youth team, John has noticed that the strength of the Americans is their ability to be friends, to not form cliques and to play off each others abilities.
“They gel really well together,” he said. “They are friends no matter where they come from.”
Players on this team have made it to the regional tournament before but none have ever made it to the Saturday championship. Not winning made the long drive home painful in past years. This year, everyone is focusing on making that drive home a victor’s march, to prove that Whatcom County can represent the Northwest.
The host of the tournament, Meridian Youth Baseball, has won many of the past regional titles. Knowing the competition is tough has only motivated these players more to stay focused be present, playing one game at a time.
The team that wins the regional tournament will go on to the Cal Ripken’s World Series Aug. 7-14 in Monticello, Ark., an honor no Whatcom team has had before, John said.
Correction: The Lynden All-Stars competed in the 2005 Cal Ripken World Series.
Cal Ripken 12U Pacific NW Regional Tournament
When: July 22-25
Where: Settlers Park, Meridian, Idaho.