Sandlot leads to World Series

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By Goose Lindsay, Sports Editor

When the Kingston AA All-Stars take the field Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the opening round of the 2011 Dixie Youth AA World Series in Florence, SC, they will be making history as the first ever team from Roane County to advance to the Dixie Youth World Series in any age group.

“This is really exciting. This is something really special for the kids,” Kingston head coach Josh Igou said. “Whether it’s Christopher Columbus or Lewis and Clark, everybody remembers the first to do something and that’s what these boys have done.”

Kingston earned their trip to the Dixie Youth World Series last weekend with a third place finish in the Dixie Youth AA State Tournament in Rockwood. The strong finish included victories over both the top two finishers in the tournament. 

However, heading into the season Coach Igou wasn’t sure if his team had what it took to knock off teams from bigger cities with more players to choose from.

“There were cities out there with more talent simply because they had more kids to choose from,” Igou said. “We had to come up with a way to get our kids to play at a higher level as a team if we wanted to do well.”

Igou’s solution wasn’t to work his team as hard as possible every practice to make them better. His idea was to have his team come together through having fun both on and off the field.

“When kids have fun they play better,” Igou said. “So we decided to balance baseball and fun.”

The first thing Igou did to incorporate more fun into baseball was to have “Sandlot” practices.

“(Kingston Parks and Recreation Director) Rick Ross and I started Sandlot Baseball at Porter Field,” Igou said. “Once a week we invited every player that was seven or eight to Porter Field for Sandlot. Sandlot is like playing in your back yard. There is no instructions and parents are not allowed to yell. The kids pick the teams and make the rules. They didn’t care if they missed the ball or made a mistake because they were having fun. Now we have players from some of the teams in Knoxville that come down for Sandlot. It’s been awesome.”

The Jackets have also done a lot together off the field this year to come together as a unit.

“We’ve done a lot outside of baseball for team chemistry,” Igou said. “We’ve had a car wash and cookouts. The night before the state tournament we had a pep rally for the team at the community center and it was awesome. It got the kids all jacked up.”

The Sandlot concept alone sets the Jackets apart from most teams, but another thing that makes them different is that they will probably be the only team at the Dixie Youth AA World Series with an inflatable Coke can along for the ride.

“Before the season we came  up with the motto ‘We Can’”, Igou said. “We wanted them to believe they could do something that had never been done before. We wanted them to believe they could make the world series, that they could make straight A’s in school, that they can brush their teeth every night. It’s a concept for more than just baseball and the kids have stuck with it.

“We even have an inflatable Coke can that has been with us at every practice and at every game. Every time they see the can they automatically believe they can get it done. It will definitely be going with us.”

Another thing that will be making the trip to Florence is the concept of having fun.

“I don’t know if the kids have any concept of how big this is,” Igou said. “It probably won’t hit them until the opening ceremonies. We’re going to try to take in just like another game and we’re going to have fun. Our only requirement for the trip was to find a hotel with an indoor pool so in case of rain we could still have a fun day of swimming.”

While the trip is guaranteed to be a memorable one, it is also guaranteed to be an expensive one.

“The cost is enormous,” Igou said. “It’s going to be a long drive and we are guaranteed at least two days of a hotel bill. Plus we’ll be eating out every night and the families have to pay every game. We have been raising money through car washes and road blocks plus several area businesses have donated money, but it’s not going to be a cheap trip.” 

 Anyone wishing to donate to the Jackets for their trip to the world series can contact Coach Igou at (865) 310-9268.