By Stephen Henderson
No one could possibly know what it takes to lead 12 nine- to ten-year-old boys through a week of baseball heaven, but the coaches of the Patrick County Dixie Youth AAA District 3 Champs—Andrew Taylor, Tal Swails and Sonny Swails—could possibly write a book about the adventure.
The team and coaches endured the ups and downs of a week away from home to compete in the state tournament in Dillwyn, just outside Farmville.
The team played four games before falling to Amelia 15-2 in the quarterfinal game of the series last Wednesday night. PC had defeated the team four days before by a score of 12-8.
Patrick County had a 3-2 record for the tournament.
The team left Friday, July 22, for their adventure of a lifetime. After piling into a 15-passenger van, the team member took off for Dillwyn, their home for the next week.
A week of friendship, team building and fun began for the young men. A regimented schedule was implemented by the coaches, including wake up calls for breakfast, dirty laundry collection, controlled pool time before lunch, team lunch, team strategy meetings, afternoon down time, fan send-off, pregame workouts/batting practice and late night games with bedtimes often after 2 a.m.
“The boys lived the life of professional minor league players for that week with the regimented schedule every day,” said Coach Tal Swails.
The team members battled through hot days with heat indices above 105. There were the occasional nicks and bruises and upside-down routines and the occasional bout of homesickness. “But all were overcome for an unbelievable experience,” Swails said.
All of the coaches expressed the importance of the “incredible families” of each player who supported the boys throughout the season. “Whether they stayed in hotels in the area or made the dreaded three-hour drive back to Patrick, they were there in attendance every night, battling the intense heat and cheering like crazy people for Patrick County,” the coaches said.
The All-Stars would like to thank all of Patrick County for its support throughout the season. Special thanks go to those businesses who provided financial support through doughnut purchases and cash donations to help offset the seven-day state tournament stay.
Special thanks also goes to Donald Blackard, local director for the PC Dixie Youth program, for his continued support of the youth of Patrick County.
Tournament game summaries:
• July 22: PC win over Bedford Nationals: 7-4
Tucker Swails was 2-3 with a three-run homer; Alex Cox was 2-3 with a triple; Broc Taylor was 2-3.
• July 23: PC win over Amelia: 12-8
Nate Large hit a grand slam homer; Tucker Swails was 1-1 with a three-run homer; Braedon Augustine was 1-3 with a double.
• July 25: PC lost to Rustburg: 14-7
Tucker Swails was 1-2 with three-run homer; Nate Large was 2-3; Braedon Tucker hit-by-pitch twice (tied record for a game).
• July 26: PC win over Dinwiddie: 16-6
Miller Hopkins hit a two-run homer; Martin Sawyers was 3-4 with two doubles; Tucker Swails was walked five times (tied tournament one-game record set in 1985); Noah Jessup hit by pitch (tied record for a game).
• July 27: PC lost to Amelia 15-2
Martin Sawyers’ lead-off single was the only base hit of the game.
Other notes: Tucker Swails was walked 11 times in the tournament which broke the record that was set in 1992. His on-base percentage for the tournament was .882. He was named the State Tournament Batting Champion.