By Jeff Slovin, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Twelve boys from Northborough played out their baseball dreams when they travelled to Cooperstown Dreams Park (CDP) in Cooperstown, N.Y., to play in a weeklong baseball tournament July 26 to Aug. 1. The team, the Northboro Knights, travelled by chartered bus, and was given a strong sendoff by friends and family, including a police escort out of town.
CDP runs 13 weeklong tournaments each summer. Each week, 104 teams of 12-year-olds from around the country spend an entire week playing, talking, thinking and dreaming about baseball, hoping they will be crowned the weekly champions.
The teams visiting CDP live in their own barracks, eat in a common dining hall and play on 22 lighted and well-manicured fields. The week the Knights were at CDP, there were teams from 27 states, including the WBL Sparks, a very strong all-girls team which drew players from around the country, and a team from North Carolina coached by former Red Sox player Trot Nixon.
The team was accompanied to Cooperstown by parents, numerous siblings and even a few
grandparents, and the tournament was the big summer vacation for many of the families. The Northborough contingent at CDP was over 40 people strong.
The boys knew they were going to be facing stiff competition, as many of the teams at CDP were club teams that recruited players from large metropolitan areas, entire states or sometimes even nationally. They lost their first five games in pool play to teams from Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Washington before winning their final pool game against a team from New Hampshire.
After learning their seating in the single elimination tournament that followed pool play, they won their first game against a team from New Jersey, advancing to the second round, before finally being eliminated by another Pennsylvania team.
Despite their overall 2-6 record, there were no disappointed faces. The boys, their coaches, and their families loved every minute of the experience.
“The week was filled with special memories that will be cherished by the boys and their families for a lifetime,” said Head Coach Richard Rafferty as the team gathered for the final time before departing home.
“I thought Cooperstown was a great experience and I would love to do it again,” said catcher Jack Connor.
Sam Slovin expressed the highlight of his week with the simple statement: “Hitting a home run!” – accompanied by a grin from ear to ear. Slovin was not the only home run hitter. Jeff Lamothe hit three home runs during the week and John Fontecchio hit two.
One of the major social activities during the week is trading commemorative pins with players from other teams. The pins are decorated with the team's logos and can be very elaborate – some have flashing lights and moving parts. The most popular and highly desired pins include limited edition pins brought by some teams, umpire pins, and especially the “Commander Pete” pin, given by the owner to one player on each team. The siblings and even some of the parents eagerly trade pins as well.
No visit to Cooperstown would be complete without a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which the team toured together after they concluded their tournament games.