Two Effingham County youth, recently, had the honor of playing baseball in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Cal Baker, a seventh grader at Effingham Middle School, and Tony Hunter, an eighth grader at South Effingham Middle school, are the first players from Effingham to take the field at Cooperstown Dreams Park, which is a few miles from where the game began.
Both athletes said they had a great time and enjoyed not only playing baseball but also visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“It was fun,” Baker said. “I was a little bit nervous, but once the games started I was OK.
Hunter agreed that the trip was fun.
“I enjoyed hanging out with all my teammates and going to the Hall of Fame,” he said. “It was exciting and a fun experience.”
Baker and Hunter joined the Georgia Bandits, based in Winder, to compete in the National American Tournament of Champions on Aug. 26.
Baker and Hunter, along with the 12-and-under Bandits, did not just go for a vacation and see the sights, but went undefeated, winning all 12 games to win the championship.
The Bandits defeated Team Anderson of California 5-3 to win the crown.
In the championship, Hunter went 2-for-4 with a home run while Baker went 1-for-3.
After recording the final out, the team celebrated its championship with a congratulatory victory lap around the stadium, to the cheers of approximately 2,000 spectators.
The event’s organizers spared no expense, giving the teams in the championship the same ceremony reserved for major league games, including fireworks, the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” and the introduction of players, coaches and umpires.
For the tournament, Baker hit .353 and walked 12 times for a .621 on-base percentage. He scored 13 runs. Meanwhile, Hunter hit .413 and hit seven home runs, while scoring 13 runs.
Locally, the duo plays for the Effingham Young Guns 12-and-under team and have been playing together since they were 8.
Bandits coach Shannon Ivey has coached against Baker and Hunter since 2004 in tournaments all over the Southeast, so he decided to invite the duo to join the team for the event.
The Bandits put together an all-star cast, pulling players from Georgia anf also Tennessee, North Carolina, California and Florida.
Some of their accomplishments include playing in the USSSA ELITE 24 at Disney World, playing on a Major World Series Championship team and winning over 20 tournaments as part of the Young Guns.