It might come to pass that none of the Gauthier & Amedee players headed to the American Legion’s version of the World Series will ever participate in the NCAA’s version.
As Gauthier & Amedee, players bathe in the spoils of its stay in Shelby, N.C., their coach appreciates that they’ll at least carry with them memories of experiences in what he calls a “miniature Omaha.”
“It’s been all first class,” Justin Morgan said. “When we got to the airport, our host family was there to greet us...The kids have received gift bags, T-shirts and even had host groups. And you’re talking about a stadium that’s had multimillions in investments to it. It’s a miniature Omaha (site of College World Series). The excitement is here.”
The squad starts its quest for a title at noon Friday against Petaluma, a team from California representing the West Region.
Post 81’s previous World Series appearances came in 1989, 1991 and 1996.
Morgan’s scouting report on Petaluma reveals a team replete with older players and an emphasis on power hitting. Six players currently play at the junior college level, he said.
“They’re extremely talented and swing the bats real well,” Morgan said.
“We’ve got our hands full. Maybe we’ll catch a break and they have jet lag or something. ... We’ll be ready.”
Other states represented in the five-day, double elimination tournament are Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina and Ohio.
Like Omaha, the Shelby community rallies around its event and has provided his players with rock star treatment, Morgan said.
The team’s Louisiana home appears to have intrigued locals, as Morgan said he and another coach were approached by a young couple outside the team van with questions about whether players had strong Cajun accents.
Pitcher and first baseman Cole Stapler said locals have peppered him and his teammates with questions that might appear reality-TV influenced. The environment has been exciting and hospitable, Stapler added.
“Everyone keeps asking if we’re from the bayou, and what it’s like living on the bayou and dealing with alligators,” Stapler said. “And they always ask about our accents. ... Everything’s been first-rate. The people, the stadium, everything.”
The team was scheduled to attend an event called the Banquet of Champions onThursday night, followed by a concert by country music singer Sara Evans.
Such potential distractions do not concern Morgan, who said the team’s overall posture since arriving, particularly during a walkthrough at Keeter Stadium assures him his players are focused.
“It might seem tough because they’ll be playing in front of 3,000 people,” said Morgan, also a Dutchtown High coach. “But they seem like they are not overwhelmed by the experience. I think they’ll enjoy playing on the big stage.”
The team has dominated the local and state stages this summer. Players representing Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant high schools have ridden a philosophy of good defense and timely hitting, to a 46-4 record.
Stapler said Gauthier & Amedee does not view its presence at the tournament as the ultimate reward.
“We have a real good shot,” said Stapler, who has signed with Northwestern State.
“We’re ready to go. Our arms are fresh. We’re here and ready to win it.
“It’s a tough competition. Everybody’s good. But we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”