BLACKFOOT – The Blackfoot Broncos 12 and Under baseball team is about to leave town for a long trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., the site of Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, and more importantly, one of the largest and most prestigious baseball tournaments in the country.
This won’t be the first time that this “community-centered” program will be heading east, and a good showing at the tournament is almost expected these days.
“This is a truly community team,” Curtis Cannon said. “The boys are all from here in the Blackfoot area, they have all grown up here, they have played together for a while and they do all of their fund-raising right here in Blackfoot. Other schools wish that they could say the same thing, but they can’t.”
Parts of the team will be leaving town today as all players and coaches need to be on site and checked in on Friday. Some of the parents and fans that will accompany the team may not get there until Saturday or Sunday.
“The team has to check in early and we will get a chance to practice a little bit,” Cannon said. “Our first doubleheader of games in the pool play will take place on Sunday.”
The Broncos are not a mediocre team by any means, but then again, neither are any of the 104 teams that will be playing in the tournament.
The teams will be split up into six-team pools and pool play begins almost immediately. Once pool play has ended, the teams will be placed into a single elimination tournament bracket where they will begin playing for all of the marbles.
“This tournament brings together a lot of teams from all over the country,” Cannon said. “We are the only team from Idaho, but there are a couple of teams from Utah and from every corner of the nation. I don’t know if every state will be represented, but most of them will be.”
The Broncos bring a record of 30-12 into the tournament and that is a lot of baseball for this age group to have played already this year. When you consider that the Blackfoot High School team only played 24 games spring and the Blackfoot Legion teams have only played around 25 games so far this year, these youngsters will have earned their way into this tournament in more ways than one.
“These kids work hard to get to Cooperstown to play in this tournament,” Cannon said. “The big fundraiser is from selling corn every year and they have to not only sell it, they have to harvest it themselves as well. There is a lot of work involved in all that they do.”
There is a local farm that donates two acres of corn to the program. DC Farms allows the boys to go into the field and actually harvest and clean the corn. Then they set up a stand in town and sell the corn to local members of the community and pool all of the money that they raise into a fund to get them back to New York for this tournament. The work really shows the young men the value of team work and working towards a common goal.
The fundraising is only a small part of the commitment that the young men put forth for this game of baseball. They have to travel to tournaments nearly every week during the season and they aren’t just going to tournaments where they will be the favorites to win. They go and they take on teams that are better than them just to get the competition and work towards being better.
“We don’t believe in racking up wins against teams that we know we should beat,” Cannon said. “Part of our philosophy is to tackle better and tougher teams in order to make ourselves better as we go. If we just settle to play whoever, we can’t measure our progress and we want to get better. We almost demand of ourselves that we will get better and it shows with the finished product of who we become by the end of each year.”
It is nothing for this team of 12 and under players to find themselves in the finals of a tournament against a team of 14 and under players, fighting to the very end to win and prove their mettle.
This team not only expects to get invited to the biggest and best tournaments around, they all but demand to be included, if for no other reason, than to prove to themselves just how good they are.
Team members include Kayson Christensen, Tanner Ellis, Weston Layton, Wylee Madson, Zaven Fairchild, Easton Cannon, McKay Ricks, Jace Cooper, Jake Vance, Maddex Hone and Dawson Jackman.
They will be accompanied by head coach Curtis Cannon and assistant coaches Brandon Jackman, Randall Fairchild and Heath Madson.