CHESTER -- Josh Alley's needed, whether or not he's sick.
"I'm going," the Chester Stampede ace said by phone on Wednesday, a day before he and his teammates are scheduled to travel to Cooperstown, N.Y., for the Cooperstown Dream Park Summer Tournament. "There's no way I was going to miss it."
Alley, who's struck out more than 200 batters in just over 100 innings, came down with pinkeye over the weekend but is taking himself and a bag of medication north with his team. The Stampede left this morning and will check in on Friday, with opening ceremonies and skills competitions set for Saturday.
On Sunday, the Stampede will take the field along with 97 other teams from 22 other states. The lone Palmetto State team in the tournament, Chester will see if its No. 10 national ranking can compete with the best from around the country.
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"(The ranking's) pretty good," said shortstop Trent Autry, who has a .500-plus career batting average and launched four balls over the fence this year. "It gives us a lot of confidence."
The Dream Park tournament gives traveling teams in all age groups a chance to compete against the country's all-stars every summer, which has gotten several other local teams involved. The Stampede signed up two years ago and embarked on a year-round schedule to prepare.
Playing against other 10-and-under teams from around the state and country, Chester kept the same 11 players and compiled a 77-24-2 record. The Stampede won 13 of the 26 tournaments they entered, including eight of the past nine, and claimed the state's top ranking.
Sponsored by Chester's I-77 Speedway, the Stampede is made up of seven Chester natives and four from the Lewisville area. Alley, Autry and Jake Wright handle the bats (Alley anchors the mound, too) and Trey Keels, Dylan Burton, Denver Mosley and Luke Blanchett each have career averages over .300.
"These guys have been together for a while," assistant coach Billy Keels said. "They've played for two years, year-round, and they all know each other."
Part of the trip will be visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum but Autry and Trey Keels said their main reason for going is to play. They want to prove they belong in the nation's elite.
"We've been waiting for this," Keels said. "It's going to be a fun trip."
Coach: Shane Blanchett
Assistants: Billy Burton, Billy Keels