Travel ball teams, by default, involve participating in lots of tournaments sponsored by various organizations, and often require traveling some distance to do so. Most travel ball teams also boast a membership representing different cities surrounding the team’s main city of registry. In fact, some travel ball teams have members who often drive three or four hours just for practices, because their players earned a spot, and have made a commitment to be on a particular team. However, one of the very unique characteristics about the San Pedro Jr. Pirates Baseball Club is that each and every single player was born and is being raised right here in San Pedro.
“Whenever we are at tourneys, people always ask us what the ‘Homegrown’ written on our shirts means,” says Cari Burich, one of the moms with a child on the team. “They are always very impressed when we tell them that all of our boys are from the same city, which also happens to be where all of the parents are from. That’s very unusual for travel clubs.”
Unusual indeed. Even more distinctive is the fact that many of the team parents also grew up together, some even went to school and played sports together, and to this day, many of them even work together. So it is no surprise that the membership is (unofficially, but seriously) limited to twelve boys who, like their parents, call San Pedro home. For these parents, the black and gold culture that is fundamental to San Pedro has been embedded in them for years, and that very same black and gold culture is being instilled in their children today. These boys are currently ten- and eleven-years-old, fourth and fifth graders who attend local schools, and absolutely love playing baseball and hanging out together.
“Sometimes after an all day Saturday practice, we don’t even go home,” says Dylan Kordich, 10, who plays catcher and pitcher, and is a fourth grader at Holy Trinity School. “We are very close and we hang out all the time. They’re my best friends and we spend a lot of time together.”
With your help, these homegrown boys will be spending even more time together this summer in their quest to put San Pedro and those nostalgic black and gold colors on the baseball map at the national level.
This July, for the very first time, a San Pedro team will compete in the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Elite World Series in Orlando, Fla. USSSA is the highest governing body in charge of youth baseball and the Elite 32 (as the national tourney is known) is considered the proverbial promised land of baseball. The team has already qualified for one of only 32 highly coveted spots in this intensely competitive tournament. Now all they have to do is get there.
“Our team qualified for Nationals in November,” says head coach Chris Lusic. “We won a huge Thanksgiving tourney against ten of the best teams in Southern California, and since then, we’ve been working very hard to raise funds to get there. We have a long way to go and we’re asking for everyone’s help.”
The boys have enjoyed an incredible season with more than 15 solid wins in less than 18 months, traveling as far south as San Diego and playing as many as 10 games in one weekend. All the while, the parents have hosted and sponsored dozens of fundraisers like poker tournaments and taco nights to help offset the many costs related to travel ball. Both feats are huge accomplishments for a travel club at this age level.
“We have a great group of kids,” says Lusic. “They are very coachable and they work hard, they listen, and they come from really good families. The parents are just as terrific and they work just as hard as the boys do making sure we raise enough money to get the boys to Orlando. This is a very special team and we are honored at the opportunity to represent this city we all love so much, and are so proud of, at Nationals in July.”
Lusic, whose nephew plays on the team, is a San Pedro High School graduate who played baseball there and at L.A. Mission College as well as Cal State Dominguez Hills. This is his fourth season coaching the team, which he helped establish, and even though they have won many tourneys, they’ve never made it this far.
“I hope we can set them all up and prepare them to play at the next level. They’re good Pedro boys and we all want them to grow up to be good Pedro men.” Lusic and his four assistant coaches hold practices twice a week at Bloch Field and enter the team in at least two tourneys a month. Their goal is to give the boys as much game experience as possible so they can be ready for Nationals.
“I am excited about going to Florida because that is one step closer to my dream, to all of our dreams, of playing baseball in the professional league,” says 10-year-old Dominic Porter, a fourth grader at South Shores Elementary School and the team’s center fielder. “It’s cool that we get to show our talent in a really big tournament across the country because people will see what Pedro is all about. We work hard and we play hard and we have fun doing it.” spt
San Pedro Jr. Pirates upcoming fundraisers include a pancake breakfast on Sunday, June 2, and a Poker Night on Saturday, June 15. Corporate sponsorships and individual donations are greatly appreciated.
For more information about these and other events, or to make a contribution to this homegrown cause, visit the San Pedro Jr. Pirates Baseball Club Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SanPedroJrPiratesBaseballClub), or their website at www.leaguelineup.com/sanpedrojrpirates.