Westfield represented at 2012 Babe Ruth World Series


Aug. 14, 2012
Front row, left to right: Manager Mike Smith, Shaun Gezotis, Anthony Clark, Ari Schwartz, Jake Colapietro, Liam Whitman, Reid Phillips, Mat Hastings, Coach Curt Gezotis and Coach Don Murray. Back row, left to right: Noah Murray, Sean Murphy, Tommy Smith, JD Huntley, Austin St. Pierre, Sean Moorhouse, Scott Walsh and Zach Jarvis.

Reminder Publications submitted photo

By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

WESTFIELD — During batting practice prior to the Westfield 13-year-old Babe Ruth team's first game of the season on July 1, coaches recounted a tale of the North Carolina 26th Regiment's courage in the Battle of Gettysburg.

"We told them about how the North Carolina 26th, no matter how badly they were getting beaten up, they kept going up the hill. As soon as one person fell and dropped the flag, someone else picked it up and kept going," Westfield Manager Mike Smith said. "The kids liked that story a lot and in a lot of ways, it has epitomized us. Everyone on this team plays a part and the starters know that if things aren't going right, there's someone behind them who is ready to pick them up."

That gritty, team-oriented outlook has worked wonders for Westfield, who have traveled across the country to take part in the 2012 13-Year-Old Babe Ruth World Series in Kitsap County, Washington, which kicks off on Aug. 15.

Westfield's first game in pool tournament play will be against Waite Park, Minn., winners of the Midwest Plains Regional, at 9 a.m.

Westfield earned their trip with a rousing 6-5 win in extra innings over New Millford in the New England Regional final at Bullens Field.

"It really was an unbelievable scene in front of hundreds and maybe thousands of people in the home crowd who stormed the field after the game," Smith said.

That win, along with every other that has contributed to the tremendous season, was due to the team's tremendous heart and determination, according to Smith.

"We may not be the most talented team, but we have great heart," Smith said. "It's a lot like a football team with the amount of passion these kids have. The kids have a saying, when someone gets hit by a pitch or gets bangs up in the field, everyone yells, 'It's OK. We've got ice!'"

The Westfield squad is not devoid of talent by any means, but Smith explained that his squad has faced more challenges than others.

"What's different about our team is the fact that almost every kid has played only in league in Westfield," he said. "Almost all of the other teams have kids that play for AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] or other organizations and play 80 to 100 games a year for multiple teams. Our kids play exclusively in Westfield. Thirteen of our 15 players have never played for a team outside of Westfield."

In fact, Smith has been coaching the majority of this year's squad since they were 8 years old and with being a homegrown team has come a sense of pride.

"The thing that happens with kids who play on multiple teams is they get worried about what their personal hitting coach in the stands is thinking or they're thinking about their stats or sometimes, just playing as many games as they do, losing a game doesn't mean as much," Smith said. "With our guys, they want to be out there playing and they want to win."

With the success came new opportunities and experiences for the Westfield squad, including a media day and autograph session on Aug. 6.

"It's all uncharted waters. They spent about an hour yesterday autographing baseballs and learning the best way to sign a baseball," he said during the Aug. 7 interview. "I think the kids will handle it all well. At this level, mistakes are going to be made and it's all about how you react to those mistakes and our kids are really good about that."

The team has spent a great deal of time signing baseballs and letters to local businesses and members of the community who have supported them.

"The community has been so supportive and incredible and we want to thank them as much as we possibly can," Smith said.

With all of the challenges facing his team, one in particular was especially worrisome for Smith as his team prepared to get on an airplane for a cross-country trip.

"God knows how I'm going to make it through security with 15 13-year-old kids," he laughed.




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