(l-r) Kolby Franks, Ashton Miner, and Bryce VanDeWostine traveled to Orlando to take part in the Disney New Year’s Baseball Classic.
Baseball Players Get All-Star Experience10:43 AM January 10, 2019
Local kids playing baseball in Florida in December sounds a bit far fetched, but for three young ball players it was reality. Ashton Minor, Bryce VanDeWostine and Kolby Franks all made a trip to Orlando the last week of December to take part in the Disney New Year's Baseball Classic.
The three athletes were selected to attend the all-star tournament after being chosen by coaches to play in a local all-star game / camp last summer. The event was organized by JP Sports, which promotes youth sports tournaments in the Midwest including the Quad Cities. After the camp the three received an email inviting them to Florida based on their play.
The boys are part of the EP Jr. Panther baseball and softball organization, not affiliated with the schools, that started in 2014 with the help of two of the boys' fathers Chad Miner and Jamie VanDeWostine. The program is made up almost entirely of EP athletes and competes in tournaments from April through July at several age levels. The group is unique is several ways including that players in the organization are required to play in local recreational leagues to ensure the continuation of those programs. They also play almost exclusively in local tournaments, which greatly reduces the travel costs compared to most "select" teams and they are encouraged to play other sports.
The two younger players Ashton Miner (10U) and Bryce VandeWostine (13U) said the experience was good and alot of fun. They were put on teams made up of players from other Midwest states and played teams from across the U.S. including Aruba and Puerto Rico.
Teams participated in pool play and then were seeded into bracket play. Miner's team took 3rd, and VanDeWostine's team took top honors in the consolation bracket. They both received medals for their efforts. Their fathers were also part of the experience as they were selected to be a part of the coaching staffs for their sons' teams.
"It was a great experience playing with kids you didn't know," said the younger VanDeWostine. He added that one of the highlights of the trip was getting to play a game on the Atlanta Braves spring training field, which is part of the Disney/ESPN sports complex. "I really improved my skills, it makes you a lot better playing against better skilled teams."
Miner was a big fan of being able to play several positions throughout the event, as he usually spends a lot of time behind the plate."You feel a little bit of pressure playing teams you've never seen before," he said.
Both players were impressed by the talent of the Miami and Puerto Rico teams, saying they were "really good" as they are able to play year round. "They were 10 running everyone, but we held them to just 6," said Miner.
Their favorite memento was a ball signed by all of their team mates along with their contact information so they can play on-line games with each other.
You can find more information about the EP Jr. Panther program HERE.