Sandlot team leading the Southeast
They are some tough little guys, and they’ve played together for years, and now they’re showing the rugged traveling ball competition just what they’re made of.
They’re Sandlot, Franklin County’s 11-and-under boys, headquartered in Apalachicola, and they’ve risen to the top of the point standings in TravelBall USA.
By amassing points for championships, and second, third and fourth place finishes in TBUSA sanctioned tournament, the Sandlot team, with more than 1,000 points, has jumped ahead of NF Grit Black-Parnell out of Freeport, R Regulators and American Thunder, both out of Dothan, Alabama, and The Panhandle Tribe out of Marianna.
What is particularly striking, said coach Lloyd Alford, is that many of the competing teams can draw players from a wide region, and pluck those who emerge as the best after a winnowing process.
In the case of Sandlot, they’re pretty much the same squad that in 2017, took home the county’s own Dixie Youth League state championship.
Sure, they’ve lost a couple players, and they’ve gained a pair of twins from Wewahitchka, but it’s pretty much the same gang of diamond devotees.
Alford, who is assisted by Jody Martina, Tyler Poloronis, Jimmy Granger, Harold Williams, and Zac Alday, said that after the Dixie Youth League state championship in 2017, the team decided they wanted to take on even stiffer regional competition and so embarked on the traveling team option.
Since then the boys have won five tournaments, including last weekend in Valdosta, Georgia, and have numerous runner-up finishes as well. So far this season they’re at 26-4.
With the help of dedicated parents, they’ll play two weekends a month, as far away as Marianna, Tallahassee, Moultrie, Georgia and Dothan, Alabama. “We’re hardly ever close to home,” said Alford.
“It takes the support of all the families involved to make this successful,” he said. “Especially the mom’s behind the scene working, keeping us cool and everybody hydrated.”
They practice twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays at Sylvester Williams Park in Apalachicola, and Alford tries to strike a balance with the regimen of plyometrics, pull slides, air squats and jump boxes, and an occasional treat of watermelon or ice cream.
“I have to do my best to increase their speed and strength,” said Alford. “There’s got to be a balance. They’re still 11-year-olds.”
Right now the team is looking forward to the World Series in Panama City July 20-to 26, at the new sports complex there, where they will take the field from some of the finest squads in the country, from as far away as California and Texas.
This time, though, as the top-ranked team in the Southeast, they won’t sneak up on anyone like they did last year in the 10-and-under World Series, when they finished third in the open division. “We’re no longer flying beneath the radar,” said Alford.
The Sandlot squad includes two 10-year-olds, #7 Kayden Drake at third base and #10 Karcen Poloronis at shortstop.
The 11-year-olds are #1 Sadiq Jones at catcher,;$3 Chason Martina at pitcher; #4 Ja’Corey Williams at first base; #6 Rylan Wood, #12 Jeremiah Allen, #14 Terrell Williams and #23 Dre North in the outfield; and #27 Nolan “Tuck” Alford at second base.
Because there is a pitching limit, Martina also gets back-up at the mound from at least a half-dozen other players.
Fundraiser Saturday in Eastpoint
The team is planning a fish fry fundraiser beginning at 11 a.m. this Saturday, July 4 at the headquarters of the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District, 40 Island Drive. If you want to donate you can also send donations to an account set up at Centennial Bank. For more info email email@example.com