After nearly two years of planning, and one trip lost due to COVID, the Potter Pirates baseball team finally made their way to Cooperstown, New York, to participate in the prestigious Dreams Park Tournament. With the help of Coach Jeff Potter, author and founder of the Potter Baseball Tour, the team was able to secure a spot to participate in this summer’s event from August 3-9. The team consisted of 12 players from the Thurmont and Emmitsburg area: Tucker Bryant, Chase Cregger, Brandon DeGrange, Mason Hewitt, Reed McCauley, Brody McQuay, Nate Morlan, Justice Myers, Brayden Rickerd, Graysen Strobel, Ethan Tokar, and Bracen Webb. Manager Keith Myers and assistant coaches, Brandon McQuay and Lane Strobel, accompanied the team to Cooperstown, along with Coach Potter.
The Thurmont community has partnered with Potter Baseball on several activities over the past few years, including a charity kickball tournament to benefit the Fuse Teen Center, a painting project on the exterior of the Thurmont Food Bank, and upgrades to the facade of the Thurmont Senior Center, as well as two attempts to play the “World’s Largest Game of Catch” to benefit CureSearch. This summer, the players and families helped with a “Day at the Ballpark” event in conjunction with the Thurmont Regional Library, cleaned up the Thurmont Trolley Trail, and freshened up the pavilions at the Thurmont Town Park. This type of community service is what Potter baseball is all about. “There are no “tryouts,” no bragging on Facebook about how many of the pitchers throw 70 mph, or how many home runs are hit in a game, or how we beat teams by 20 runs. “The talent level of your child is much further down the list than most parents would ever imagine,” said Coach Potter.
It was an exciting, yet tiring, week of baseball for everyone involved. Players and coaches got to stay on-site for a week, lodging at Baseball Village. They had the chance to spend quality time together, meeting players from all over the country and trading their team pins. In their downtime, they hung out in the barracks or were outside playing wiffle ball with their newly made friends. They were provided with daily meals and custom uniforms for the tournament. Each player received both blue and red uniforms, long- and short-sleeve practice shirts, a jacket, and a commemorative tournament T-shirt featuring all 88 teams. At the end of the week, each player also received their very own tournament ring. In addition to that, the team was able to fundraise in order to purchase each player a custom Cooperstown bat with the team members and logo on it.
On the first day, the teams participated in an opening ceremony, where everyone marched into “Little Majors Stadium” carrying their team banners. Several parents got in on the action by dancing the can-can and YMCA to fire up the crowd. Next up were various skills competitions, with Justice Myers participating in the home run derby, Chase Cregger in the fastest player contest, and Nate Morlan in the golden arm accuracy challenge. The rest of the team were involved in a speed and fielding challenge known as “Around the Horn+.” After that, it was nonstop baseball for the next three days. Due to a rainout on the first day, the Pirates ended up playing three games back-to-back on the second day in the unseasonably warm 90-plus degree heat in New York. The team was exhausted but continued battling over the next few days in order to improve their seeding in the single-elimination tournament. When tournament day finally came, they battled valiantly, winning in the first two rounds. Ultimately, they would fall in the third round to an extremely tough Powerbats NJ team. The week was full of memories, as several players homered, everyone got a chance to pitch, and the team celebrated two walk-offs.
Once the baseball games were over, everyone had a chance to let loose and enjoy themselves a bit. Players and families got to spend time going out to local restaurants, having ice cream, fishing, visiting the various wineries and breweries, and exploring other local attractions and shops. But, the best part of all was visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame and seeing all of the amazing players that paved the way and helped make the game what it is today.
On the final day, a closing ceremony was held and players were presented with their official tournament rings. Afterwards, there was a patriotic fireworks display, and everyone settled in to watch the Championship game between SoCal Truth and BP San Diego. The Truth proved to be too much and won the game in four innings to take the title. All in all, it was a wonderful experience for the players and families. They came away with memories that will last a lifetime, new friendships, amazing photos, and souvenirs that will never let them forget the wonderful experience they had at Cooperstown Dreams Park.
Coach Jeff Potter stands with the Potter Pirates baseball team, as they show off their tournament rings they each received at the Dreams Park Tournament.