IT'S been two long years since Mount Seymour Little League's age 9-10 all-star team won the District 5 title to earn a spot as the host team of this year's Canadian Little League Majors (11-12) Championships.
The wait, however, is now nearly over as the tournament will kick off this Saturday at North Vancouver's beautiful Chris Zuehlke Memorial Park. Those lucky and talented Mount Seymour players must have had their heads in the clouds for two years, dreaming of this moment every minute of every day.
Well, not really, according to Mount Seymour head coach Pete Matthews.
"Kids are about today, not tomorrow," Matthews said with a laugh last Saturday as his boys prepared to play one of their final tune-up games before the big show begins.
"I think for the most part the kids didn't really take it into account until this year. Last year they all played on different all-star teams so they were all in that moment."
The boys may not have been obsessing for two years, but they certainly have been practicing, if their performance last weekend is any indication.
Taking the field for an exhibition game
against North Langley - a team that nearly made the provincial championships - the Seymour kids were faced with a lanky pitcher who looked a head taller than all his teammates and who threw fiery fastballs.
Working the count, drawing walks, taking pitches, running the bases well and then finally exploding for some big hits, Seymour roughed up the Langley pitcher and his replacement, putting up nine runs in the top of the first inning. To top it off, pitcher Cam Filippone came in and struck out the side in the bottom of the first. Seymour went on to win 16-0, adding another strong performance to an excellent summer in which they've shown that they may not be very gracious hosts - at least on the scoreboard - once the national tournament starts.
They took part in the round robin portion of the District 5 Majors tournament in July and posted a perfect 6-0 record, outscoring their opponents 55-10 in the process.
"We've got a really good team, a really deep team. We don't have any sort of individuals who are beyond everyone else," said Matthews. "One of the things that will show as we go through is we have a really deep staff. We have 13 kids who can all play baseball. It's a real treat having that because it gives us coaches a ton of flexibility with what we want to do. And the kids all know that they can rely on each other."
They know each other well. The whole team from 2009 is back plus a couple more players to get the roster to 13, said Matthews, adding that there are no wannabe Ken Griffey Jrs on the team who moved to Seymour just to get a crack at nationals.
"There were a couple of rumours like that spinning at one point but we never saw any of that come to fruition," said Matthews. "These kids have been our kids the whole time, the same core people working towards this."
The players have put in a lot of work, he said.
"They've been going four to six days a week, lots of effort, games on the weekend." The team's staff - including assistant coaches Dan Biro and Bruce Davis and manager Jacki Steenken - and the rest of the parents have put in a lot of time too, said Matthews.
"We've all played a little hooky at work to get here," he said with a laugh. "We've done a lot with the kids to make it a fun experience for them, a memorable experience."
A national championship win at home and a trip to the famous Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., would certainly top off the experience.
"A trip to Williamsport - anybody who has played Little League baseball, that is what you aspire to," said Matthews. "It's almost like the Stanley Cup in hockey. That's what it is for these kids. If you can go to Williamsport and play down there, you've hit the top of the mountain."
The Seymour kids have their chance now. There are only six Little League teams in Canada that are still in the running. On Saturday the final race begins.
. . .
The Mount Seymour team members are: Stefan Biro, Noah Davis, Triston Matthews, Cam Filippone, Marshall Hogan, Cole Ensign, Desi Burgart, Johan Steenken, Jacob Edmonds, Ethan Akelaitis, Trevor Adolf, Trevor Castagna and Macgregor Sharpe.
Seymour will play in the evening feature game starting at 6 p.m. every day from Aug. 6 to Aug. 10. Seymour's first game on Saturday night will be a battle of B.C. against the provincial championship-winning Langley All-Stars. For tournament information visit www.vancouver2011.ca.