Where do we go from here?
It was fun, but the World Series trip is over for the Rutherfordton-Chase 50/70 All-Stars. They loaded a charter bus and headed for the airport early Tuesday morning en route back to Rutherford County.
The journey to the highest level of Little League baseball may be over for this group of local boys, but their baseball careers are only beginning. As they prepare for school in roughly two weeks, it’s time to speculate what this collection of players is truly capable of, especially considering that the majority of them will continue to play together in middle and high school.
“My expectation is at some point they’ll win a state championship with their high school team,” head coach Curtis Snethen said. “They’ll all be eligible to play with the county Legion team and there’s potential for accomplishments there as well and maybe make a trip to the Legion World Series.”
Only one piece of the puzzle is moving onto the high school ranks, star outfielder/pitcher and the anchor of the middle of the batting order, Adam McDowell.
“Adam is probably the most athletic and most improved player. He came to us as a one-way guy that didn’t do much more than play outfield. Now he can run, throw, hit and play just about any position we need him to,” Snethen said of McDowell, whom he’s coached for three years as a member of the Elite baseball program.
The other big loss for the group is first baseman and team leader Joe Conner as he moves with his family to Colorado.
“When Joe came to our program at 10 years old he could hardly walk, let alone run, field or hit,” Snethen said of the 6-foot-3 Conner who is admirably referred to as “Big Joe”.
“The average coach wouldn’t have taken Joe. He just needed a break. Two-hundred pounds at 10 doesn’t happen very often,” Snethen said. “As far as I’m concerned he’s become a very solid first baseman. He’s in my heart and he’ll be back. He’s our true team leader because we accepted him.”
The large bulk of the team will stick together at R-S Middle where they’ll continue to play on the same team loaded with talent. The left side of the infield is especially gifted with shortstop Keaton Snethen and third baseman Jace Crowe.
“Keaton Snethen was probably one of the best shortstops in this tournament offensively and defensively. He has a real keen eye for the game,” Curtis Snethen said. “Jace Crowe at third base is a real solid corner guy that’s always been a great fielder, but as he’s gotten older he’s learned to swing the bat really well.”
On the mound, expect big things from Snethen’s son, Cameron.
“Cameron Snethen as a left-handed pitcher with a great pick-off move that can throw well has a ton of potential,” the eldest Snethen said. “Honestly, we have a lot of guys on this team that we expect a lot of.”
But as young boys get older, Snethen understands how their lives can change and shift from a baseball focus.
“I’ve expressed to them all that as they get older, other things will come up in life and they’ll need to find a balance that allows them to stay dedicated to the game,” Snethen said. “They’ll have friends, girls, computers and when these guys get to high school they start changing their priorities a little bit.”
But according to Snethen, the key to the team’s success may not be on the field, but in the stands.
“This team has a great group of parents and that’s always a key to a player’s success at any point,” Snethen said. “Over the years I’ve seen division in programs because of parents and that can ruin the chemistry of a team.”
One thing is for sure, there’s something different about this group of young ball players, something that could spell success for years to come.
“This team is special because they’re easy to work with, they have a good time and there’s no division among players,” Snethen said. “It doesn’t matter how we mix them up … they’re all best friends as a team.”