The Gardendale 8U Rockets took Kent Field at Moncrief Park for a round of on-field batting practice Sunday evening, as they fine-tune the bats and gloves which have built a Dizzy Dean Baseball dynasty over the past four seasons.

Starting with the outfielders and finishing with the infielders, the eight-year-old lineup took turns taking swings as head coach Wilbur Christy instructed hitters on all things from batting stance to proper timing, even at this late hour of the season. Christy occasionally instructed some players to hit the ball into a certain part of the field—a successful effort more times than not.

The Rockets scattered hard-hit balls in every direction, several of them stopped by the steel fencing which separates the park’s largest field from the wooded area beyond—sure-fire dingers on any regulation peewee field from here to Southaven.

Christy, however, insists that defense is the bedrock of this group’s success: “Last year in the state tournament we scored like 88 runs and gave up five. Giving up five in one game is good, but giving up five in a whole tournament is…”

Gardendale recently beat Huffman 14-5 for the team’s fourth straight state crown. The decisive victory improved them to 18-1 on the season and represented the 14th game the Rockets have held their opponent to five runs or fewer. In total, Gardendale has produced 277 runs in 19 games while surrendering only 56.

“I think our defense makes us stand out,” said Christy.

He hopes his gloves travel safely to Snowden Grove Park next week when the boys vie for their second World Series title in as many years. This will be their third appearance in Southaven, Miss. The boys capped an undefeated campaign last July with a World Series championship and placed third in their first appearance in 2017 in the 6U division.

For a team which has remained mostly intact throughout this run of dominance (Christy says nine of the 11 players on this year’s roster have contributed to each of the four championships), a single hand is enough to docket its total number of losses in four seasons: four, including three defeats in 2017 and another this year.

So what’s the key to sustaining success? According to Christy, it’s the competitive environment which is ever-present when the Rockets are together.

“If you watch our practices, it’s internally competitive,” said Christy. “They all want to be good. Nobody wants to be not the best player.”

Another thing that sets this team apart is its commitment to training. While many kids are enjoying the slow pace of summer with long nights followed by sleepy mornings, the 8U Rockets are putting in 9 a.m. workouts at the Gardendale Civic Center.

“Most of the games at the World Series are played before noon, so we have our players go workout in the morning so they are accustomed to being up and active during the morning hours,” said Christy.

“The other factor in our success is our parents, the dedication and commitment it takes to play a full season and then fund raise, travel and cheer on an All-Star team is massive,” he continued. “We hardly ever have kids miss practice or workouts and we have the loudest group of parents at any game!”

Christy is assisted by coaches Brian Burdette, Matt Morton and Dustin Norman. Rachel Storey operates under the title of team mom.

THE ROSTER

  • #17 Shortstop, Evan Storey

Favorite Player: Mike Trout

  • #55 Catcher, Grayson Burdette

Favorite Player: Bo Jackson

  • #2 Second Baseman, Ross Christy

Favorite Player: Mookie Betts

  • #8 Third Baseman, Weston Morton

Favorite Player: Freddie Freeman

  • #99 Pitcher, Dylan Bolton

Favorite Player: Mike Trout

  • #23 Left Fielder, Kam Laws

Favorite Player: Mike Trout

  • #6 Left Fielder, JP Taylor

Favorite Player: Bryce Harper

  • #5 Right Fielder, IJ Smith

Favorite Player: Mike Trout

  • #18 First Baseman, Tucker Roberts

Favorite Player: Freddie Freeman

  • #13 Right Fielder, Jason Wright

Favorite Player: Jackie Robinson

  • #00 Right Fielder, Levi Norman

Favorite Player: Bryce Harper

Erik Harris is the sports editor for The North Jefferson News. He can be reached at sports@njeffersonnews.com

This Week's Circulars

Recommended for you