Once in a lifetime
What an unforgettable summer it's been for a group of young men from Rutherford County.
On July 13 the Rutherfordton-Chase IM 50/70 All-Stars played their first game in the state tournament. And now 14 days later with state and regional title banners in hand, they're shipping off to the Intermediate World Series in Livemore, Calif.
"They've already passed anything that District 1 has ever done and accomplished more than I could ever ask for," District 1 Administrator Terry Cobb said. "I'm just proud."
As the Southeast representatives in this year's World Series, the team will have all of the expenses covered for the players and coaches. However, parents and fans are left to foot their own bill. And a week-long trip to a city over 2,600 miles away (by car) isn't an inexpensive endeavor. With airfare and accommodations, a set of parents is looking at roughly $2,500 in expenses.
With that in mind, the team parents and the Rutherford County Little League is raising funds to send the boys' families to the west coast to witness them participate in an event that most only dream of.
"It means a lot to these kids to have this support group. And for the parents to share this experience is exciting and we feel so blessed," said Jill Crowe, mother of third baseman Jace Crowe.
"Teams react to the fans in a lot of cases. The more fans and the louder they are, the more the team will respond," Cobb said. "This is once in a lifetime for these boys and the parents need to be there to witness this. The entire Little League program is based on volunteers and parents. For us to be able to send the parents out to witness this is the next priority."
Parents have set up an account at Fifth Third Bank for donations and are taking pledges on their Facebook page, 13U NORTH CAROLINA/SOUTHEAST REGIONAL CHAMPS.
"Most of us parents are juggling work right now but our No. 1 priority is our Facebook page," said Curtis Snethen, head coach of the All-Stars. "If you pull up that page you'll see some exciting things."
Donations on the page range from $20 all the way to an anonymous donation of $2,500.
Facebook, Rutherfordton Orthopedics and Kiwanis are among donors of at least $1,000.
"The fact that we've had so many people being so generous and so kind has really been a blessing," Crowe said. "The county has been behind these boys the whole way and so many businesses are calling and asking to help. They've been more than kind and generous. They deserve all the recognition."
Donations will continue to be accepted as the team is set for a send-off today at noon at the Rutherford County Courthouse.
The team is selling shirts that feature the team and it's players for $20. Each sponsor on the shirts donated $300 to the team.
"My goal is to get support there," Snethen said. "I don't want a hardship on any of these families. I don't want them to come back home and owe money for a trip that they took just to watch their kid play some baseball. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want it to be effortless for them."
It's obvious how important this entire experience has been for the parents as well as the players.
"It's a good kind of overwhelming," Crowe said. "We are so honored and proud. We show up for every game that these kids play. For these boys and this experience it makes everything worth it ... every Saturday, Sunday and weekdays during middle school ball. Just being able to see this right here happen makes it all worth it."
Snethen, who is a team parent as well as a coach, understands the experience from all angles.
"I know it's important for a kid at 13 to have his parents watching him play. There's nobody a kid wants to be more proud of him than his parents," Snethen said. "They may not always say that, but I remember when I was 13 and my dad was my No. 1 fan. So that's why it's in my heart and my goal to raise the money to get parents there."
This group of parents, who according to Snethen have provided the largest crowd at every game throughout the team's journey, is still holding out hope that each one of them can join their child in this experience. It's become bigger than just baseball.
"At this point it's about the memories," Snethen said. "I know these boys will do well, that isn't my worry. We don't want people to feel obligated to donate money. We want people to do this for the kids, Rutherford County, North Carolina and the Southeast region."
HOW TO DONATE:
-Visit the Facebook page '13U NORTH CAROLINA/SOUTHEAST REGIONAL CHAMPS' and pledge
-Contact Fifth Third Bank and donate to the team account at (828) 287-2244
-Championship t-shirts available at today's send-off for $20
-Contact Terry Cobb (828) 429-2483 or Curtis Snethen (828) 223-8191