The folks of Chaves County have seen Kyle Stokes and his family work and play at Lions Hondo Little League for the last 12 years. Stokes and his wife, Julie, have been presidents of the league and been the glue that held everything together by working with other families as volunteers, working the concession stands, fundraising — whatever has needed to be done, it has been accomplished.
The league has seen both of their boys, Rhett and Ross, play in the league and make All-Star teams and now Ross and his dad are one game away from winning the U.S. side of the World Series. All they have to do is beat Southeast, the team that gave them their first loss in the tournament, in their first game of the World Series, 20-8.
Truth be told, it was Roswell/Southwest’s first game of the World Series and Southeast’s second game in the Series.
“After losing the first game,” Kyle said. “It helped that we played every day, with the first game behind us. We developed a short-term memory in baseball. We have nothing but what is in front of us.”
Now, it is interesting that these two teams should meet again right where it all began. This could be a blessing in disguise for Roswell because the Southeast team they face could possibly be thinking that victory is easy since they beat them so easily in the first game.
Roswell has been a team that has gotten pitching from all different players, and they have gotten hits from different players, so they will not be able to pitch around one batter to get to the next one.
Any of Roswell’s hitters can take a pitcher out of the park with one swing of the bat.
Kyle was asked to coach the team by Chad Holloway and only agreed to do it if Holloway would coach with him. Jeremy Kermode is the other manager helping the team be successful. All three men get along well and discuss strategy. It looks like it is a decision by Stokes, but the coaches have already played the game in their mind before the team takes the field.
The coaches stay up late and go over game decisions about what to do if this happens and who to pitch to whom. Many times the strategy and situations have been talked about and worked out before the game is played.
“As far as being a manager is concerned,” Kyle said, “we as coaches talk a lot of stuff over together, as far as playing positions, pitching and time. Chad, Jeremey and I have stayed up late, got up early, ran through game plans and possibilities over and over. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. We learn and adjust on the fly.”
Kyle sees himself as a regular guy from Plainview, Texas who just wants to be involved in his kids’ lives.
It’s where he met and married Julie, who was graduating from Wayland Baptist University — they met at a party that night. The couple knew it was love at first sight and had only known each other for seven weeks before becoming engaged. That has turned into them being married for 19 years in December. Julie’s dream was to become a special education teacher, which she achieved — and her next goal was to see her sons graduate from the high school she graduated from — Roswell. With that in mind, the family moved back to Roswell, and Kyle found a job at Leprino Foods and has been there for 10-and-a-half years. He has been a mechanic, worked on forklifts and now works on warehouse machines.
“Leprino has been great,” Kyle said. “They have been supportive of me, and given me time off to coach my boys, Rhett and Ross, for Little League.”
Kyle isn’t feeling any pressure and believes that it is baseball. He thinks that it is going to be great because the game will be broadcast on ESPN, and Kyle doesn’t try to make it any bigger than what it is. It is baseball, nothing more and nothing less.
“The game is going to be on TV,” Kyle said, “it is going to be fun. This is baseball, and the kids are playing together wonderful.”
One of the main reasons Roswell finds itself in the championship game is because they have often been the visiting team. Roswell is not afraid to fall behind in a game. Kyle seems to think the team is never out of the game and, in fact, he thinks they are so special that they don’t play their best baseball until they fall behind.
To Kyle, it seems like the team doesn’t play their best baseball until they are down to their final out and backed into a corner.
“As a visiting team, you either have to score first,” Kyle said, “or you have work to do. Our kids are scrappy.”
Kyle has had his whole family with him — son, Rhett, is the starting shortstop for Roswell; they will talk strategy with son, Ross, as well. These are the moments he will cherish as he looks back on his All-Star experience — time with his family. He hasn’t had a chance to spend a lot of time with his wife due to being in the hotel with his team. Kyle said the team plays the game, and then they are back on the bus headed back to the hotel with the players.
“Julie sees me before the games,” Kyle said. “She wishes me luck, and she gives me a smile after the games, win or lose. Baseball is the greatest game on earth, there is no time clock; defense has the ball, and you have to give your opponent a chance. You have to throw it, and they get a chance to hit it.”
The team is wearing uniforms designed by his wife — the seventh design Julie sent to be approved by the team. The team wanted to wear red, white and blue for the joint league of Lions Hondo and Noon Optimist. Another key decision was for the team to select four catchers on the team and choose a pitcher at every position in case the team made a deep run in the tournament. Roswell has needed all the arms on the team because of pitch count. The coaches have given the kids a role to play on the team, and the kids have accepted it.
“We have a rotation with the catchers,” Kyle said. “We have used Wesley and Matthew, and it has helped out a lot. Neither of them get tired back there. In Houston, it really got humid, and we had to keep the kids hydrated. Having a lot of versatility with the players has kept them and the team fresh. Every player from 1 to 12 has a place on this team and a job on the team.”
With the game being televised on ESPN today, Roswell wants to shine for the fans back home. Kyle wants to make the fans of Roswell proud of the team and give them something to stand up and cheer for. He would love to win it all and bring tears of happiness to the Roswellians.
Kyle told RDR Sports on Friday that he was considering four pitchers and that like the rest of Roswell, we will have to tune in at game time to see who is on the mound.
“I have told our team,” Kyle said, “live your life to the fullest and enjoy this experience and smile big along the way. This has truly been amazing, the support of the Roswell community and the unity the city has provided. Kids, you all rock!”
Roswell plays today at 6 p.m. local time, at Max Baer Field in Livermore, California. Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh invites everyone to come out to the Roswell Civic & Convention Center to watch the game. The game will be shown
Stay tuned … win or lose today, read the RDR Sports pages for a preview of the championship game on Sunday should they win, or an analysis of the Southeast game and wrap of their All-Star season.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.