EAST?LONGMEADOW – A group of a dozen 12-year-olds in the East Longmeadow Rockhounds baseball team will head to Cooperstown, NY, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, to play ball with other teams from across the nation during the week of Aug. 1.
“It gives the kids a chance to play in a Major League atmosphere,” Rockhounds Coach Dennis Mongeon said. “The fields are immaculate. There are 104 teams [from across the country].”
He added that teams would play six games during the course of six days. After the six games the Cooperstown Tournament officials will rank each team and the single elimination tournament would begin.
“It’s almost like baseball heaven,” he noted.
If the Rockhounds were to win to win the tournament they would gain prestige and some bragging rights, Mongeon said. The focus of the event is to be a fun and enjoyable learning experience.
Mongeon said if kids on the team stick with playing baseball, then maybe they could be teamed up or play against team members that they will meet in Cooperstown.
The tournament lasts 14 weeks and 104 teams are brought in each week, he noted.
“The kids get a lot of Cooperstown gear and uniforms,” he added. “We’re going to trade pins. It’s a once in a lifetime experience … Cooperstown is Disney to baseball lovers.”
The tournament is for players 12 years old or under and the cost of participating in the tournament is $895 for each of the three coaches and the team’s players, Mongeon said.
Fundraising for the tournament reduced the price for the team down to $275 per team member.
The Rockhounds were formed by resident Mike Baxter in 2010 and it started off with only one team in the 12 and under John L. Sullivan League, he added. This year there were eight teams competing in other age categories such as 8 and under and 16 and under.
The team has been playing together for the past two years in the John L. Sullivan League in Springfield, Mongeon said. This year the team placed third in the league and played 40 games this season.
“We’re a team that represents East Longmeadow well,” Coach Jason Cloutier said.
The main focus of the 12 and under team is center around learning the fundamentals of the game and to gain a love for the sport, Mongeon said.
“We try to instill respect for each other, respect for your opponent, and respect for your coaches and player,” he added.
All of the players on the team are from communities within the Pioneer Valley, he noted. Ten kids are from East Longmeadow, while one is from South Hadley and another resides in Longmeadow.