They've come from far and near to take part in the National Baseball Congress "Hap" Dumont 14-under World Series in hopes of going home with national bragging rights.
The North Stars of Carroll, Iowa, and the Wichita, Kan., Cardinals are teams that have traveled long distances in hopes of fulfilling that dream.
The players who make up the North Stars, a select group of players that were 10-1 coming in the "Hap" Dumont, travel from as far away as four hours to be part of the team.
"Our players come from anywhere between Interstate 35 west and Interstate 80 north," said Carroll coach Dennis Molitor. "Our players have been primarily playing with their hometown teams all summer and many of them played junior varsity and varsity ball."
On the other hand, the Wichita Cardinals, 8-2 in tournament play, are comprised of players their coaches know want to play baseball.
"This is our 10th tournament this summer," said Cardinals coach Larry Fleming. "We've traveled to Oklahoma City, Kansas City and also to some local tournaments in Wichita. We've probably played close to 55 games this summer."
How the teams afford to travel to a tournament and stay for a week differs.
For the North Stars, getting players to Brainerd fell on the shoulders of parents. But it's a burden all were willing to pay.
"The kids get along so well and they all have excellent attitudes," said Charlie Kostelnick, whose son, Peter, is a pitcher and outfielder. "It's nice to see them play so well and have fun. And, if they win, that's the icing on the cake."
For Wichita, assistant coaches Jim Petrich and Dennis Phelps have funded the team's tournaments and uniforms. But, as far as hotels and food, that's up to parents.
"All the teams have stayed at the Ramada," said Chad Pierpoint, father of Aaron, a pitcher and outfielder. "Myself and another father are staying out at Cragun's."
With the teams staying in Brainerd for a week, down time between games for a 14-year-old can sometimes mean trouble. But parents and coaches haven't had to worry about players getting into mischief.
"Mostly, we've all been hanging out at the hotel and swimming," Kostelnick said. "A few of the kids were able to come out (Tuesday night) and watch the Mighty Gulls play so that was a nice treat for them."
For the Cardinals, who have been playing most of the tournament in the losers' bracket, late nights haven't been an option.
"With us staying out at Cragun's, there's been plenty for the boys to do out there," said Pierpoint. "We also took the whole team out for a movie one night. But there really hasn't been a whole lot of time to do much. After the game we feed the boys, maybe do some laundry and then get them to bed because they've usually had to play early."
The Cardinals and North Stars met in Wednesday's semifinal game to see who would face the Omaha Patriots in today's championship. Wichita prevailed, 2-1, knocking the North Stars out of the tournament and moved another step closer to its goal: A World Series title.
"The kids are having a blast and so are we," said Chad Pierpoint. "It's just nerve-wracking sitting up here and watching them play. We've come this far and we're just hoping that they can keep it up."
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