Four boys from the northern beaches are playing for the Aussie Waves baseball team in the prestigious Cal Ripken (U/12) World Series international tournament in Branson, Missouri.
Kai Harris and Sylas Casper-Richardson (both of Forest Baseball) and Jack Kelly and Jesse Hanrahan (both Pittwater Baseball) are competing for the Waves on Branson’s Ballparks of America artificial turf fields.
The ball parks which are reduced replicas of actual Major League Baseball stadiums with names like Chicago Field and Kansas City Field.
After going down early Saturday morning (Sydney time) to Nassau 4-2, the boys take on Calgary under the lights of St Louis Stadium at 7pm local time (10am Sunday AEST).
The Waves are in Pool E (International) and will take on teams from Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Canada and Bahamas, before playing against teams from across the United States.
Kai’s dad Owen Harris is President of Forest Baseball and Executive Officer for the Waves on their trip to the USA.
He told Beaches Champion the boys are on a “once in a life time experience”.
“The kids are absolutely loving it over here. There’s a very strong camaraderie between teams and a carnival atmosphere, all of which adds to the once in a lifetime nature of the experience.
“Hopefully it’ll light a fire for them to go onto bigger and better things – but this will be hard to top.
“There’s nothing like this in Australia. In fact, there aren’t a lot of facilities in the United States which are as good as what we are playing on,” Harris said.
Kai Harris says the standard of opposition is the best he’s faced in his baseball career.
“Teams over here play 90-plus games a year – we have a 16-round competition.
“So they don’t make many errors and their batting is also very strong,” Kai said.
Before the tournament the Waves played warm-up fixtures against teams in Bryan, Texas – including a game with the Bryan’s Pride Assist (special needs) Team – before visiting Minute Maid Stadium, home of Houston Astros, where they got down on the field to watch the Astros practice batting practice. They also met Astros manager Dusty Baker.
The team have also enjoyed other cultural pursuits, according to Kai.
“There are hundreds of fast-food places here – my favourite is Chick Fil-A.
“America in summer is very hot and humid and full of extremely friendly and enthusiastic people.
“Another amazing thing is the size of the roads. The highways in Houston were like a big pile of spaghetti all joined together!” Kai marvelled.
The Aussie Waves are not the national U/12 team of Australia but rather a selection of boys who competed in the Down Under Winter Classic tournament on the Gold Coast in July.
In April the Manly Little League Major All-Star U/12s missed out on going to the Nationals after losing their state titles semi-final in a last inning heartbreaker.
The loss cost them a shot at playing the best teams in Australia, which in term cost them a shot at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
As a result, a number of the teams formed a travelling ball team called ‘The Northern Beach Bums’ consisting of players from Manly, Ryde and the Central Coast.
Kai has been playing baseball for Forest since he was five and his best position is pitcher.
His uncle, Vaughan Harris, is also a pitcher and played professionally for the Sydney Blue Sox in the Australia Baseball League.
Vaughan also represented the United Kingdom at the World Baseball Classic.
Kai wears the same #34 as his uncle.
The Waves take on Calgary under the lights of St Louis Stadium at 7pm local time (10am Sunday AEST). Ball fans can catch the game live here.
Marketing for the end of the article: Forest Try Baseball days are Sunday, 7th August (1-3pm) and next Saturday, 13th August (1-3pm) at Aquatic Reserve. More info can be found at www.forestbaseball.com