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This Upper Valley youth baseball team is heading to the World Series

a photo of two kids, one with a baseball bat, one with a catcher's mitt
Howard Weiss-Tisman
/
Vermont Public
Mariner Gershon squares up on an incoming pitch during a recent practice. His team, the Central Vermont 12U All Stars, is heading to the national Cal Ripken World Series in Waterville, Maine.

For the first time ever, a Vermont baseball team is going to the national Cal Ripken World Series.

A team from the Upper Valley, The Central Vermont 12U All Stars, won a regional tournament in Massachusetts recently, and will now battle teams from throughout the country in Waterville, Maine.

It rained as a recent practice started at the Sharon Elementary School.

But the sun came out as a rainbow spread out across the southern sky, making it a beautiful evening for baseball.

Assistant coach Tim Gershon said the team only had a handful or practices left before they set out to represent New England in the national showcase.

“You know we’re going to be facing teams from places as far away as California, and North Dakota, and parts of the Southeast; every part of the country,” he said. “And we’re up for a whole new level of competition that I think it’s far to say we hadn’t even really dreamed about.”

“There’s no doubt that we are a team that comes from a rural set of communities. And we’re going to be facing teams that don’t necessarily come from that sort of background. But all that said, I have no doubt that they’re going to go out there and play the same baseball that they play every other time they take the field.”
Tim Gershon, assistant coach for the Central Vermont 12U All Stars

The Central Vermont 12U All Stars is made up of a group of 11- and 12-year-olds from a bunch of small towns around the Upper Valley, like Tunbridge, Bethel, Brookfield and Thetford.

Gershon says if you add up all of the population counts from the seven towns, it's miniscule in comparison to the towns and cities they faced in the New England-wide tournament in July.

And the teams they’ll be facing in the World Series will also likely come from larger communities, with more resources, that on paper might look stronger.

But Gershon says he believes in his players.

“There’s no doubt that we are a team that comes from a rural set of communities,” he said. “And we’re going to be facing teams that don’t necessarily come from that sort of background. But all that said, I have no doubt that they’re going to go out there and play the same baseball that they play every other time they take the field.”

Three youth baseball players holding their mitts and facing away from the camera, looking toward the fence around the baseball diamond. Trees line the field.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
/
Vermont Public
The Central Vermont 12U All Stars is made up of players from seven towns in the Upper Valley.

The Central Vermont 12U team has been crushing it all year.

They didn’t lose a game in the regular season, and then won the Vermont State Championship, beating Bellows Falls in a 5-3 nail biter.

Randolph resident Dylan Delaney hit a walk-off ground rule double that broke the 3-3 tie in the last inning.

Dylan, who plays infield and pitches, says he was ready for the moment.

“In baseball I’m in a lot of high pressure situations," he said. "Like, you really have to build up mental strongness for baseball. And, like, after a while it will just sort of back you up, you won’t have to think about having it. It will just be there with you. But it’s definitely something you have to build up.”

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After taking the Vermont championship, the Central Vermont 12U team headed into the New England regional tournament as underdogs. (Remember, a team from Vermont has never won.)

They faced the Massachusetts state champs from Weymouth, the second-best Massachusetts team from Burlington, and the New Hampshire champs.

When it was over, the Vermont team was the last standing.

“I think it’s really fun that we are the first team to make it to the World Series from Vermont. And, that’s really cool. And it’s just really fun to be on this team. We got awesome baseball players, and really great coaches. And, yeah, I feel like we deserve it."
Will DeCapua Whiteman, from Sharon

Will DeCapua Whiteman, from Sharon, plays infield and outfield, and says his team was confident going into the last tournament, even though the rest of the teams might have underestimated the Vermont squad.

“I think it’s really fun that we are the first team to make it to the World Series from Vermont,” DeCapua Whiteman said. “And, that’s really cool. And it’s just really fun to be on this team. We got awesome baseball players, and really great coaches. And, yeah, I feel like we deserve it."

On that recent rainy-then-sunny evening, practice was loose. The kids let a few routine ground balls go through, but there were a few good catches and plays too.

The coaches are trying to fine tune some of the fundamentals in these final days.

Young baseball players in green and white uniforms sit around a picnic table and sign baseballs.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
/
Vermont Public
The Central Vermont 12U All Star team signs a box of baseballs for people who have donated to their trip. The team is trying to raise money to help their families travel to the World Series in Maine.

Mariner Gershon, an infielder and pitcher on the team who lives in Brookfield, says the Central Vermont 12U All Stars are battle-tested, and that they played some of their best baseball of the season in the last tournament.

He's looking forward to what comes next.

“Sometimes when you’re in that moment of like that final game, and you’re not really like think — you can’t think too deeply, that’s part of the mental thing,” Gershon said. “You’ve got to really trust yourself. And know that like you’ve had plenty of practice, you’ve had some experience, and you just got to trust that you can do it. But will that be enough? That’s gonna be the question. And we’re going to find out.”

The first game for the Central Vermont 12U All Stars is on Saturday, Aug. 6. The full tournament will be live streamed, here.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman @hweisstisman.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is VPR's reporter for Southern Vermont & the Connecticut River Valley. He worked at the Brattleboro Reformer for 11 years, reporting on most towns in the region and specializing on statewide issues including education, agriculture, energy and mental health. Howard received a BA in Journalism from University of Massachusetts. He filed his first story with VPR in September 2015.
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