It’s one thing to win in Sacramento, and quite another in New York.
The Los Angeles Easton Elite Dodgers 19O Stan Musial Collegiate baseball team has become quite aware of that lately, both on and off the field.
Yet, the Los Angeles-based club, which played most of its home games out of the Tujunga Ball Fields, is more than willing to take its chances as the squad opens up action Thursday afternoon in the Stan Musial World Series in rural Farmington, NY.
The Dodgers, who field a handful of local players and coaches, are one of eight teams participating in the double-elimination tournament and open against Canton, Ohio, at 1 p.m. PDT. A victory would vault the Dodgers into championship bracket action at 4 p.m. PDT Friday, while a defeat sends the squad into a second-chance contest at 10 a.m.
“It wasn’t a surprise run for me because I knew the team had it in them. It just took us awhile to jell,” Dodgers Coach Rick Freire said. “I just want this team to come home with their heads held high and to enjoy the experience. It’s very hard to get to this stage and it’s a huge deal.”
The Dodgers, champions of the American Amateur Baseball Congress League, earned their ticket to the Empire State with a 4-0 run through the Western Regional Tournament in Sacramento that included a sweep of the Palo Alto Oats, the three-time defending regional champion.
Los Angeles (26-9) opened with an 8-0 victory over the Sacramento Legends on July 25 before rallying from a 9-5 eighth-inning deficit against the San Jose A’s to pick up a 10-9 win.
Two wins set up the Dodgers with their first game against the Oats, in which starting pitcher Braxton Diaz allowed one run and seven hits with six strikeouts in a 9-1 victory.
Palo Alto fought its way through the second-chance bracket for a championship rematch July 28, one in which the Dodgers scored two runs in the fourth on a single from Travis Crumb and added two more runs in the sixth, one coming on a single from Burbank High graduate Nathan Zavala.
The offense was more than sufficient for hurler Tony Davallos, the tournament most valuable player, who fanned five in a complete-game 4-1 victory, which qualified the Dodgers to their first-ever Stan Musial World Series, according to Freire.
“To be honest, it was our goal and expectation to win a Western Regional Tournament. We knew it would be tough, but we thought we could do it,” said Dodgers manager Mickey Moreno, a one-time Hoover High and Glendale Community College player who just retired after 18 years with Vaquero Little League. “Once we won, it was kind of like, what’s next?”
With less than two weeks time, coaches Freire and Raul Noriega (former owner of the Glendale batting cages) and Moreno, scrambled to finance a last-minute trip to New York for the three coaches and 19 players.
“The flight alone was $14,000. I was lucky to receive some donations from co-workers, but we’re going to have to do a lot of fundraising when we get back,” Freire said.
Moreno said the AABC kicked in $2,000 for transportation, but that the squad owes its East Coast excursion to team mom Cyndee Burditt, who financed a large, but undisclosed amount, on her credit cards.
“Needless to say, the team owes a big thank you to Cyndee,” Freire said.
Other than the coaches, the Dodgers boast local players in Hoover’s Fidel Hernandez, Zavala (who will enroll at GCC) and Vaquero Little League alums California Moreno, Jacob Barajas and Daniel and Michael Noriega.
With such an effort, perhaps it goes without saying what the Dodgers’ main goal of this trip is.
“Our first goal was to get there,” Moreno said. “Now that we’re going, our goal is to win.”
For information on donating, Freire is asking anyone interested to email him at email@example.com.