By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Now that they have won the WV State Tournament, the Shinnston Junior League All Stars (13-14 year olds) will soon be heading to Ft. Myers, Florida to be one of the eight teams that will play in the Southeast Regional Baseball Tournament.
Chris Kellar, coach of the Shinnston All Star team, said that what began with 1,200 in their region has now been narrowed down to these eight state champion teams with just one team from each of the following states moving on: West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. The winner of the Southeast Regional tourney will then proceed to the World Series games that will be played in Michigan.
West Virginia’s Junior League All Star Tournament was hosted in Shinnston this year. Kellar explained that every district in the state has an opportunity to offer to host this event and Shinnston qualified.
“Fortunately, we won the district competition, but we were going to host the state tournament here either way. However, it was very nice to be able to be host and play on our own home field,” Kellar stated. “We didn’t have lots of time to prepare to be the host community, but we were very blessed to have lots of volunteers pitching in to help and they did a terrific job.”
The Shinnston Junior League All Stars were chosen from two local Junior League teams, and they were loaded with players who were not only talented but dedicated.
“These kids were aggressive and really played hard. Naturally they are ecstatic to be going on to play in the next round,” Kellar added.
With the Southeast Regionals scheduled to open on August 3rd in Florida, the Shinnston team is really busy working on fundraising! And the funding needed is pretty sizeable; they are estimating it to be around a $16,000 price tag! ‘Serious’ fundraising has already begun, Kellar noted.
“Since these are all state winners that are advancing, they do offer us some nicely discounted hotel accommodations but the cost will not be completely covered. We will also have some of our meals included, but again – not all of them. Being the state the furthest away from Florida, it would be a 19-hour drive for us, so we’ll need to fly,” Kellar continued. “We have to report on August 2nd and are scheduled for a practice at noon that same day. Our first game is at noon on Friday, August 3rd and we will be facing off against Virginia.”
The team of ten players, two coaches, a team manager and two other chaperones will be making the trip. They plan to be in Florida from August 1st – 8th. The Southeast Regional tourney is a double elimination tournament so they would have to be defeated at least twice to be out of the running to proceed. However, since their air fare dates will be locked in, they will be staying in Florida until the tournament ends – win or lose.
“This is only the second time in Shinnston’s history that a team has advanced to this level,” Kellar said. “That was back in 2012 when a younger group of 12-year old All Stars got to advance.”
They have already begun to approach local businesses to help with funding, and since they are state champions, they should be able to get funding from all over the state, not just locally. But Kellar said they have some hard work to do over just a ten-day period. However, they felt they were off to a good start having raised about $3,000 on their first day out seeking donations!
The Shinnston Little League organization took in around $6,000 in gate ticket sales and concessions at the tournament hosted at Lincoln’s baseball field. And the organization has worked diligently in 2018 with fundraising efforts, hosting bingo every week and several purse bingo games as well as a night golf tournament and continuous passing of the hat and concession sales during the season’s games.
“The Shinnston Little League Board will give us a donation to help us with trip costs, but even though we care a lot about and are so proud of these ten All Star players who won the state title for us, there are also 200+ kids who participate in our local Little League every year so the organization can’t empty its pockets to help us. They will need money to work with when play resumes next year,” Kellar continued. “So the coaches and parents are trying to reach out and help raise as much funding as possible for this upcoming tournament trip.”
Seven teams participated in the All Star tournament hosted in Shinnston week before last (Moorefield, Logan, Sophia, Fairmont, Martinsburg, Hurricane and Shinnston) with Shinnston winning all four of its games. They opened with a 16-1 win over Moorefield. Their second game was against Fairmont and it was a 15-4 win. Martinsburg was their opponent in the 3rd game with a score of 15-0. Their final – and closest – game was against Logan; the score was 16-11.
“I think it was during that final game that our kids realized they could actually WIN the state title and it made them a little edgy, but they pulled it off,” Kellar concluded. “We are so proud of them. Each and every one of these kids contributed to our wins and they are honored to represent their community – so much so that they have elected to wear their Shinnston uniforms during tournament play instead of state uniforms!”
Baseball has long been a national pastime, but for these players, it’s serious business!
Good luck to Shinnston’s Junior League All Stars … play like the champions you are!