Behind some video game-like stats, the Carolina Reds 12-and-under baseball team finished third out of 104 teams at the Cooperstown American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame Invitational last week.
The Reds won nine of their 10 games during the week-long event at the town’s Dreams Park, losing only to the Motor City (Mich.) Hitdogs, who eventually won the tournament. The Reds, based in Rock Hill with players from Chester and Richburg too, crushed a ridiculous 33 home runs during the 10 games, with Ty Good hitting eight of those. Good had a tournament that could be described as incredible; in addition to eight dingers, he also threw two no-hitters, striking out 17 of the 18 batters in the second one, thrown against Capital Renegades (N.Y.) last Thursday.
“The expectations were high for our team, but to get in the top-three or four, it’s crazy,” said Reds coach Jay Thurmond. “There’s a lot of good teams from all over the country, and Canada too.”
Third was the highest a Reds team ever finished at Cooperstown; the organization has been sending teams every summer since 1999, and founder Red Cox - hence the name - joined Thurmond’s team last week to participate as a tournament umpire. The 33 homers were also the most a Reds team had ever hit at the storied youth baseball facility, based in the same town as baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Each of the 104 teams were given passes to visit the nearby museum, a memorable experience in itself. The Reds went last Monday morning, and Thurmond’s sons, Jordan and Kobe, finally learned why their grandfather was named Connie Mack, after the famous baseball player, manager and team owner, and why so many males in the Thurmond family had the middle name “Mack.”
“We had a lot of names in our family due to a baseball legend, a hall of famer,” said Thurmond. “That was pretty neat to see his name in there. They thought that was really neat.”
The baseball went almost as memorably. Good, from Chester, threw a no-hitter in the Reds’ first game of the tournament last Sunday morning, a 9-0 win over the Miami Storm, the No. 2-ranked team in the nation. Good threw another no-hitter on Thursday, while bashing home runs seemingly for fun in between.
The Reds’ offensive potency was encapsulated in their 18-15 win over the Texas Pistols Thursday afternoon. Thurmond’s bunch fell behind 6-0 in the top of the first, but scored 14 in the bottom half of the inning to reclaim the lead. Good wasn’t the only one swinging a hefty bat; Ryan Brown and Joel Haney each hit four home runs during the week, while Jordan Thurmond, Taylor Long and Kam Evans all bashed three. Clearly, the Reds are ready for the impending age group-predicated move to a full-sized baseball diamond.
The Reds won all of their six pool-play games, and were seeded fifth overall when the single-elimination tournament started on Wednesday. They fell short of their championship goal on Thursday afternoon. Motor City brought an all-star team pulled from all over Michigan. The Reds finally ran out of arms and extra base-hitting, and their tournament came to an end in an 11-4 loss.
“We knew the situation. That team had only allowed four runs all week, and we scored four on them in the first three innings,” said Thurmond. “We kind of ran out of pitching.”
The result hardly soured a great week in a town named after the family of James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote The Last of the Mohicans. The Reds stayed together in a summer camp-like bunk at the Cooperstown Dreams Park compound, enjoying the baseball atmosphere and the cool summer weather on the shores of Lake Otsego. In an old New York village dripping with history and memories, the Reds players and coaches forged their own.
“I’ll never forget it; I’m sure they won’t,” said Thurmond. “You make a lot of memories there just cutting up with the boys in between games. It was a good time, a real good time.”
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T