FORT MILL -- A top cop. A former college football player. Eleven young men with national championship aspirations. A group of families that give 100 percent support to the cause.
They are the Fort Mill All-Stars, a 12-and-under baseball team headed to St. Petersburg, Fla., on Aug. 1 to play in Little League Baseball's Southeastern Region Tournament.
The field also includes the state champions from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The winner earns a berth in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Jeff Helms, Fort Mill's Chief of Police, is the coach. Bryan Causey, a former defensive back at North Carolina, and Wayne Norman are his assistants, but only two coaches are allowed in the dugout at the Regional.
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"We like our chances because our team is built on pitching and defense," Helms said. "We have six pitchers we can use, but we only pitched five of them in the state tournament, where we went 4-0 and beat Greenwood/Abbeville 6-5 and 5-4.
"We are smaller than every team we play, but our kids get after it. We trailed or were tied in the last five games we played, but came back and won. We got to the state tournament by beating Irmo 7-6 in eight innings at the district tournament."
Most of the All-Stars play for the Fort Mill Falcons, a summer traveling team, and have been together since they were 7. Most will attend Nation Ford High School in a few years.
Helms said the coaches at Nation Ford, also the Falcons, are already talking about the players on his team. The players are talking about what the future holds.
"My brother played in the regional two years ago and I said then that I'd be back when it was my time to go," said Josh Corley, one of Fort Mill's pitchers. "They went 1-3, but I think we'll win it all and go to Williamsport. That's our goal.
"I grew up with these guys and we've played together since the time we started baseball. And we plan to stay together, play for Nation Ford when we get to high school."
But the first order of business is taking care of the task at hand in Florida.
Helms said the field is tough, especially Fort Mill's pool. The All-Stars are grouped with teams from Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. The top two teams after three pool games advance to a single-elimination tournament against the top two teams from the other bracket, made up of teams from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Fort Mill won state championships in 2004 and 2006 but was knocked out in Florida. The All-Stars lost to the Georgia team that won the World Series in 2006.
"The tough part is that when you get past pool play, if you have one bad inning, you go home," Helms said. "But if we take care of our part, we should be fine.
"We win with pitching, defense and getting big hits at the right time. At the state tournament, Greenwood/Abbeville hit six home runs in two games against us and 11 in the tournament. We hit only two, but as a team our on-base percentage is .400 and we find a way to get runners across the plate."
And the All-Stars, 8-0 in two tournaments, have a faithful following of parents, who are very supportive and are good baseball fans.
The group includes Tim Quinn, a Boston transplant who moved to Tega Cay four years ago and the father of Colin Quinn.
Quinn said the year the family moved to the area, Boston won the World Series. Because it was a special time and because the family loves the Red Sox, Quinn let his son stay up late and watch the games.
"We checked around the country looking for a good place to raise our family and liked this area the most," said Quinn, who works for Microsoft in computer support. "It was a good choice, especially from the baseball perspective.
"We get to play for three months up there. We can play almost year-round here and the level of play is different, a lot better. We feel fortunate to be here at the right time. Our son has a chance to make it to the World Series."
Helms and the team are raising funds to make the trip to Florida, which will be expensive for the families. He said anyone wishing to help with donations should send it to the City of Tega Cay, c/o Charlie Funderburke, P.O. Box 3399, Tega Cay, S.C., 29708. Include TCFM All-Star Team in the memo and your name and address.