Back to work
Saturday was for driving. Sunday was for flying. Monday was for baseball.
The Rutherfordton-Chase 50/70 All-Stars — now simply, Southeast —completed the 2,600-mile journey to Livemore, Calif. Sunday night after two days of driving and flying. Upon arrival the players were sized and given their new uniforms for the week, gold and maroon jerseys with “Southeast” across the chest. Players also received hats, pullovers, undershirts and practice jerseys … all of which they get to keep.
But after a solid night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, it was back to the diamond for the boys from Rutherford County.
“After traveling all day and dealing with uniforms and media it was a stressful day,” head coach Curtis Snethen said of a hectic Sunday. “Today (Monday) was actually the first day to get the kids out and let them have some fun, which for them is playing baseball.”
The team, decked out in bright white pants, long sleeve maroon shirts under bright gold practice jerseys and fresh new caps, loaded a shuttle and shipped over to Max Baer Park for a 90-minute practice session that began at 10 a.m.
Thirty minutes of infield and outfield practice preceded an hour-long batting practice at the facility’s batting cages.
Not a cloud was in the California sky as each player had a chance to take their hacks and reacquaint themselves with the feel and ping of the bat.
“For these guys it’s not difficult to get back into playing mode,” Snethen said. “They know what I expect but they’re still 13. If I can get them focused to where they need to be they tend to fall in line.”
At times Snethen barked at few of his players who may have had too much of a “vacation” mentality.
“I was surprised how relaxed they were,” Snethen said. “They’re much more relaxed than they were at Regionals, but anytime a coach tells them that they need to focus more means that they’re maybe a little too relaxed.”
The boys quickly snapped back into game mode, something Snethen expects them to keep come game time.
“We’ll be ready come game day,” Snethen said. “They needed the mental break just as kids but our guys are prepared to play the game.”
Then, before you knew it, the Canadian team strolled over for their turn in the cages. The short practice session was over. After a quick lunch the team loaded the shuttle, returned to the hotel and prepared for the downtown parade and medal ceremonies.
“I really think that the parade’s a time to have a good time and unwind. The business side of all this will all be behind us,” Snethen said.
Today marks the start of competition as four U.S. teams face off. Luckily, the Southeast team isn’t one of them. They’ll match up with the winner of today’s Southwest vs. East game Wednesday at 3 p.m. PST.
“We have a huge advantage with a first-round bye,” Snethen said. “All the other teams had to travel like we did but they have to play [today] when we get that extra day’s rest. I think mentally that will be a big break for us.”
Today the team plans to hold a short practice before scouting their potential opponents in the afternoon game.
However, come Wednesday, small-town Rutherfordton boys won’t be playing one of the best teams in the state. They won’t be playing one of the best in their region. They’ll be playing one of the best teams in the country and the world.
“Any of these teams can win from what I’ve seen. It comes down to who wants it more,” Snethen said. “These guys (Rutherfordton-Chase) understand the magnitude of this. These guys are special. I know the game and these guys can play.”
But no matter whom they play or where the play them, the bases are still 70 feet apart and the mound is still 50 feet from home plate.
“The game of baseball doesn’t change. It’s just a matter of how you’re prepared,” Snethen said. “Everyone here is going to be pretty good, but the game is no different.”