I’m on my last tour of duty as a youth baseball coach, and it ends for good next year (2010) when my team will play as 13-year-olds in the spring and summer only. In the fall, most of the guys, including my youngest son, Joe, will enter high school, and I’ll be done! From then on, each will control his baseball destiny. All of them will play on high school teams — each is that talented — and some will play on high-powered summer teams coached by college assistant coaches or professional scouts. Many have the potential to play in college, if the desire to play high-level ball remains through the high school years.
This travel team, currently the 12U Brooklyn Bulldogs, began as an 8U team in 2005, and most of the players have been on the team since they were 8 or 9. Some, in fact, have been a part of the 78th Precinct Youth Council — the parent organization of the Bulldogs — since they were even younger, as players in its in-house program.
This weekend’s two double headers will mark the end of one era and the beginning of a new one, a rite of passage in baseball for boys turning into young men. It will be the last time the team plays on youth field dimensions — 51 feet between home plate and the pitching rubber and 75-foot basepaths. After this, it will be on to the big diamond — 60.6 inches for pitchers and 90 feet down the lines, the field for high school, college, and professional ball.
It will be the field for which they’ve prepared all these years, and it will signal the homestretch for many of them as teammates. The Bulldogs end at 13U.
Former Bulldog and current high school and summer-league player Johnny Fernando, an assistant coach on the current 12U squad, has put together a small Bulldogs slideshow (3 mins.) for posterity, as a tribute to the team’s improbable national championship win in Myrtle Beach, SC, in 2007, as a 10U team. It was an incredible experience for the guys, who went down south and clawed their way to a championship, many times coming from behind when it looked like they were going under. See it below. (John’s brother, #12, is, naturally, featured prominently! All the photos were taken in SC.)
Click here to read the the Daily News article about the championship from 2007.
Click here to see photos of the Bulldogs from the May 18, 2009, issue of New York Magazine.