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T'birds return from Cooperstown with memories

July 5, 2013

The Decatur Thunderbirds at Cooperstown. (Photo provided)

     Is one baseball tournament worth three years of preparation?
    The easy answer is: definitely not!
    However, if you ask the members of the Decatur Thunderbirds, you're going to get another answer entirely.
    "It was an experience of a lifetime," commented Kevin Brown, the key pitcher in THE game of the big week for the Birds, won after 11 innings of battle.
    "You're only 12 (years old) once. I wish every kid who loves baseball could play at Cooperstown," added Brown.
     The Decatur Thunderbirds, like Little League aged teams from this area which competed at the Cooperstown Dream Parks Tournament, had to form years prior to the tourney in order to conduct fund-raising and to learn regular baseball rules with leadoffs and a longer pitching distance.
    The kids play in their regular house leagues, then play on the Cooperstown team on weekends and at the end of the season. It is a lot of baseball.
    The three years of double-duty, traveling and raising money to pay the approximate $900 per player fee just to get into the park marks a strong commitment not only from the player but from the parents.
    And the coaches, they have the best part: managing the fund-rasing, tourney competition, keeping everyone happy, and then there's the baseball side.
    "It takes three years of your time, but it was a fantastic experience," said T-Birds manager John Macklin, also manager of Miller Land Surveying in the Decatur Baseball Association's Reese League.
    "This is a great group of kids. I couldn't have taken a better group. I'd do it all over again ... but it takes a lot of work."
    The week is special, but not because a team wins a bunch of qualifying tournaments to get into this special New York Tourney. The squads pay to get into the field for the right to play a few miles from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
    "I felt like I was playing on a Major League Baseball field," said T-Birds player Aaron Lehrman.

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