Ten-year-olds Justin Holt and Tanner Parks have been playing some form of the sport together for most of their lives.
“It’s been for a long, long time anyway,” Justin said.
They started in tee-ball as 4-year-olds, went on to coach-pitch ball at age 6, and then to regular — or kid-pitch baseball — at 8.
They are members of a team of 11 calling themselves Peabody Warriors who took second place in a Cal Ripken district tournament for 12-year-olds played July 8 to 12 in Peabody.
This past weekend, the Warriors were in play again as Peabody was host to a Cal Ripken state tournament for 11-year-olds. The Warriors held their own in pool play and then played two exciting games in bracket play, coming from behind for third place.
As host team, they would have played in the state tournament whatever they had done at district, but the second place showing there sealed their position on the schedule.
The boys are allowed to play on teams with older students, thus their positions on a team made up of 11- and 12-year olds.
Justin and Tanner are among the youngest on the Peabody squad. They are coached by three volunteers, head coach Jason Navrat and assistant coaches Glendon Parks and Tom Swenson.
The team had an up-and-down season, but Parks said the boys showed a great deal of improvement. In addition to their regular schedule, the Warriors participated in several tournaments including one in Salina, where they placed second
“That one was just for fun,” Tanner said.
They were involved in extra practice for a month to get ready to play in the Peabody tournaments.
Tanner plays second base and is a relief pitcher. Justin is right fielder. Each is certain his spot is the most exciting.
“Tagging a runner out is good, and striking a batter out is the best,” said Tanner, who struck a batter out in the district tournament.
Justin is convinced there is not a better position to play than right field.
“That’s where all the pop flies go,” he said. He was excited to have caught one in district play.
This past weekend in state competition both boys filled additional positions in the rotation: Tanner at short stop and Justin at catcher.
Their season ended with an exciting win for the Warriors. Other than pickup games or tossing a ball around in the backyard, they will have to wait for spring to begin again. Their enthusiasm for their sport is undeniable, however.
When asked before the state tournament if there was anything they wanted the people in Peabody to know about playing baseball, both acknowledged the support of the community and their sponsors.
“And everyone would be happier if they would just play baseball,” Tanner said.
Justin pumped his fist in the air and said, “Yeah, baseball is life!”