Dedication that lasts over the course of nearly a decade is rare to encounter, even more so when that dedication and commitment begins at the young age of nine. That rare devotion, however, is found in a majority of the graduating seniors on the Stephenville High School baseball team. When the boys joined the newly established Stephenville Sox little league program nearly ten years ago, most arrived with a hereditary attachment to the sport, passed on from family.
“I was kind of born into it,” said Lane West, graduated senior and previous second baseman for the Yellow Jackets. “I’ve been playing baseball as long as I can remember.”
Keith Philips, who coached the first Sox team, recalls the rough beginnings with the team. He said that first 9U season garnered no wins. As Philips coached and the boys grew in knowledge and height, they won second place out of 32 teams by the time they were in the 12U division. The team with no wins three years prior soon found themselves ranked second in the state and seventh in the nation, giving the community a glimpse of their talent and the future.
“Those kids started as nine year old, and they stuck together and they played together until they were seniors in high school, I think that’s really what propelled them. Our boys knew each other, and they knew each other inside and out… They weren’t individuals on the field playing for themselves, they were a team player for each other and I thought that made a huge difference for them.”Keith Philips, Sox head coach
That loyalty to the sport and to each other was noticed by more than just Philips, however, as the boys entered the world of high school baseball.
“They have a good chemistry together,” said Justin Swenson, head baseball coach at Stephenville High School. “They knew how to play together… What helps is when you get best friends playing alongside each other…you don’t have a lot of egos.”
Bryson Dill, a graduated senior who was a pitcher for the team, explains that his teammates and the fun they had maintained his interest in the sport over such a long period of time.
“I play with a great group of guys,” Dill said. “I always had fun… Having fun was the main part. And then, winning’s always fun.”
Swenson described Dill and West as leaders on the team, saying each member had their own specific role in working together the best they could.
“I give all the credit to the coaches,” West said. “They made it all happen.”
While their run at the state tournament ended earlier than they had hoped, many of the boys will go on to play baseball in college, and Swenson is looking forward to the coming season.
“We’re losing ten seniors,” Swenson said. “But we don’t expect to fall off a lot… We have a saying around here, ‘we don’t rebuild, we just reload.’ So we’re going to reload with our younger guys and we expect to make another run.”
Philips reflects on the team he coached years ago and the pride he feels watching them all playing togther so many years later.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” he said. “I’m proud that they stayed together, and you know they dedicated themselves to each other, to have a great baseball team.”