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All-Star coach reflects on a wild ride

The Roswell Intermediate All-Stars at the World Series in Livermore, California. (Sybil Boyd Photo)

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Imagine what it’s like to be a 13-year-old boy playing a game, having fun. Baseball is about streaks and having fun. If the Roswell Intermediate baseball team would have won it all, the kids were going to shave coach Chad Holloway’s head and Fu Manchu mustache. The team already shaved Kyle Stokes’ head and put letters into the top of Jeremy Kermode’s head.

The Roswell Intermediate All-Star team celebrates after a win during the World Series last week in Livermore, California. (Sybil Boyd Photo)

Though the team came up short, it was a fun ride and a once in a lifetime experience that not one of the players will ever forget. Most of the boys won’t remember the homers, great defensive plays or amazing strikeouts. They probably won’t reminisce about the come-from-behind victories, but they will laugh about the pranks they pulled on each other and staying up too late. They will remember the bus rides and all the laughs with each other on their journey to the World Series and being from Roswell, New Mexico.

“Kids dream of playing in the Little League World Series,” coach Chad Holloway said, “but they were there. The way the boys handle it was like they expected to be there. It was an experience of a lifetime, and the boys accomplished more than they know. It will take them five years-plus for them to know how big they are.”

Holloway is extremely proud of the team because it wasn’t just one player that stood out, the team received contributions from each player. For Holloway, he was impressed because the team had to play and adjust on the go. The team was regimented and on a time crunch.

Coming out of the district, Holloway told the parents he thought the team was special and they could win district — not because of one player but that they were just together as a team and close. Holloway had coached every player on the team in one sport or another and knew what each player was capable of.

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For the team, each of them had to overcome being in a different environment, and they had to grow up and mature in a hurry. The boys had to keep up with their clothes, uniform, gloves and personal effects and stay focused.

The Roswell Intermediate All-Star team with law enforcement and first responders Monday after arriving back in Roswell from the World Series in Livermore, California. (Ernie Lujan Photo)

For three weeks, they had to travel and pack and live out of a suitcase and they had to learn it all on the fly. That’s what being in the Major Leagues is like, and the boys learned it in the space of a month, what it’s like to be a Major League Baseball player. At 13 years old, these boys grew into young men before the nation’s eyes.

If the ride were smooth, that would have been one thing, but the boys learned what it is like to face adversity and have a town following their every move. They knew what it was like to live in a now-moment. The boys learned how a town can rally around them, and how they can have the hopes and dreams of a city known for UFOs expect out-of-this-world results, but settled for their best effort and welcomed the team home as heroes.

Holloway shared with RDR Sports, that as he watched the boys riding into town on the back of vehicles, he teared up for the boys, and because of the boys, and for how proud he was of them. Not because one player was a star, but because they all contributed and learned teamwork and became closer because of what they went through in three weeks.

For three weeks, all the team had to lean on was each other. They had to pick each other up when they would have a bad at-bat or make an error. Holloway believes that good things happened to the team because they became a team.

“I’m so proud of these boys,” Holloway said. “Without the parents and the support of the Roswell Community, we have nothing. We go through the losers’ bracket twice during our run and we show the kind of scrap that a lot of teams didn’t want to play.”

For Roswell, they finished the All-Stars tied for No. 2 in the country and No. 3 in the world.

Isaiah Herrera can look back on his journey as one of great satisfaction. This was his first time making it as an All-Star, but he played well enough to be selected and his life will never be the same. He showed what belief in himself and hard work can do. Isaiah changed his life by working to be the best he could become.

For Ernie Lujan, the one take away was that his son was selected to the All-Star team by putting in an enormous amount of work after being left off the team last year. Both father, Ernie and son, Reeco, feel like these moments would not have happened if they had not put the work in.

“I’m proud of him,” Ernie said. “Not for making the All-Star team, but because he’s my son.”

According to Ernie, the team felt like once they beat Texas West for a measure of revenge, there was no stopping them, and that win felt better to them because it was the first team they lost to in the regionals. That win sent them to the World Series. Roswell Intermediate baseball team was the second team in the city’s history to make it to the World Series in 63 years.

“This team was more than a team,” Holloway said. “They became a family. It was a wild ride that I’ll never forget and neither will they. They won’t understand the magnitude of what they accomplished until later in life. I’m so proud of how they handled their success.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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