There is a Tao expression that tells us, “The journey is the reward.” The journey for the Santa Monica PONY Baseball 16U National Team took a brief break after an unlikely come-from-behind win that propelled them into the PONY International World Series in July.
It picked back up just several days later in the wee hours of the morning at LAX. This is where head coach Wes Terry and his young men would gather to board a plane that would take them to southern Illinois. If they needed any wake up call, Southwest would do so by calling out the players names as they boarded the plane, as if they were introducing a starting lineup. That would be just a taste of what was to come.
The Pony International World Series in Marion, IL included domestic teams from Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. Internationally, the representation was from Germany, Japan, and Mexico. The opening ceremonies showcased the colors of all of these nations. And, made a loud entrance in doing so. The flags were brought into the stadium via riders on Harley Davidson motorcycles. Not a bad way to get a team fired up for what the days to come would bring. These opening ceremonies have now been viewed more than 2,000 times on the Santa Monica baseball team’s combined Instagram and Facebook accounts. If you read last month’s story, you could surmise that some of those views came from detracting or even envious eyes. But I digress.
From what Wes Terry said, the ceremonies and the way the boys were treated from beginning to end was done with class and was, “A1.”
The results on the field did not go the way the team would have hoped. Wes’s team fell to a team from Texas, and was just short against the German team. And, from what I know about this skipper and his troops, they did not go quietly.
The results inside the lines were not what they desired, but there was winning done outside of those lines, and beyond the dugouts. This was exemplified by social media posts of these players with their arms around their counterparts from around the globe. How far can that go? The German team told Wes that they would like to host them in Germany. A corresponding invite to Santa Monica
is said to be in the works, too.
I asked Coach Terry what he thinks he and his team learned about this experience. He told me, firmly, that they are, “Good enough.” Good enough to compete against such a high level of competition. Certainly good enough to ignore the outside noise and negativity that was levied at him and his staff when they were initially putting this team together. And, good enough to compete at a level of competition that Wes referred to as, “revealing.”
It turns out that teams from non-baseball-dominant countries like Germany, can be pretty darn good. This team has the backbone that Terry instills in his players. From instrumenting that 9-2 comeback to get to the World Series, to taking groundballs in a parking lot before one of their World Series games because there was nowhere else to do it.
The scoreboard might not have reflected it, but there was winning done in Illinois by the boys from Santa Monica, and their city should be proud.
They returned home for more tournaments and showcases for them to display their skillsets. Back at practice, and eager and ready to get back to work, the attitude of the boys and the willingness to having had to prepare for a game in a parking lot reassures Wes he has “baseball players.”
The skill of experience is one they can return armed with for the next World Series. It’s a ride they all hope they get to take again. This ride was so important that Tim Leary, who is one of the coaches, and also a member of the 1988 World Series-winning Dodgers, skipped Orel Hershisher’s enshrinement into the Legends of Dodgers Baseball. Leary did not want to miss out. And, who could blame him? Side note: Hershisher did not.
These baseball players from Santa Monica have been rewarded with an incredible journey. And, as long as they continue to listen and remember what Coach Terry is trying to instill in them as players, and much more importantly, as young men, the fruits of their journeys are just beginning to be recognized.
By Michael Margolin