Talking on the phone with Miami Springs Little League president Otto Camejo early last week, he quietly whispered on the other end, “They’re loaded.”
Camejo was referring to the Miami Springs Little League Minors All-Star team, which was a few days away from commencing on its quest to win the District 8 North Pool championship against three other teams: Liberty City, North Miami and North Miami Beach.
Last Sunday afternoon, June 23, I got to see first-hand just exactly what Camejo was talking about.
Less than 48 hours after clobbering long-time nemesis Liberty City, 12-2, in a five-run knockout mercy rule contest, the Springs all-stars took the field again against North Miami at Prince Field.
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And once again the Springs youngsters clearly demonstrated why they are the pre-tournament North Pool favorite and at the same time made Camejo look awfully smart by going out and whacking North Miami by a 16-5 final. This one was over after just 3 1⁄2 innings.
Now 2-0, Springs will not play its third game until this Thursday, June 27 when they take on North Miami Beach (0-2) at Prince Field at 7 p.m. And, considering NMB lost to the same North Miami team that Springs clobbered by a 13-5 score two nights earlier, the locals should be a prohibitive favorite to win and lock up the No. 1 seed among the four teams.
“Just a terrific effort by all of the kids of coming out and playing good sound baseball and really swinging the bats,” said minors head coach Robert Gonzalez-Pino. “I can’t thank Otto and all the parents enough for showing their faith in me to come out and put this kind of a team together.”
Gonzalez-Pino referred to the fact that Springs all-star coaches have had trouble in past years putting enough quality talent on the field to really compete with the likes of Doral and Kendall Hammocks, considered the big shots of District 8.
With both of those teams competing in the South Pool playoffs in Key Largo, Springs would not see either one of those teams until July 6 when the South champion hosts the North runner-up and vice versa.
Against North Miami, Springs gave starting pitcher Nicholas Regalado all the runs he would need in the bottom of the first when they came out flailing away with their bats and plated six runs.
Carlos Martin led off the game with a base hit and that was followed by a one-out RBI single from Oscar Colindres Jr., an RBI double by Regalado, an RBI double by Gavin Gonzalez, an RBI single by Javier Cardoso II, followed by a walk, error and walk from Eddie Vidal, Nathan Baumann and Michael Rivera, respectively, to complete the rally. After Regalado struck out the side in the top of the second, Springs picked up right where it left off as Carlos Rey, Colindres Jr., Regalado and Gonzalez all led with way with extra-base hits to highlight a 10-run second inning that made it 16-0. Colindres Jr. actually came to the plate twice in the inning, lashing a two-RBI double the first time and RBI single when he came back up to finish his abbreviated day 3-for-3 with four RBI.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when we first got together but now it feels good because everything has come together and I think we can take this a long way,” said Colindres Jr., who is one of five players on the team that Gonzalez-Pino managed to pluck from travel ball teams and convince parents to allow them to play Little League in Miami Springs. “Nothing negative out there. We’re just staying positive and working hard.”
Gonzalez, Rey, Regalado and Cardoso II, whose father Javier Sr. is the team’s assistant coach, are the other four travel ball players.
“The key was not necessarily convincing the kids but convincing the parents,” Gonzalez-Pino said of his concerted effort to grab some kids off travel teams. “There is such a stigma attached to Little League baseball nowadays with not being able to take leads and other things you can do in travel ball that parents don’t necessarily want to commit. I told them about my ‘Project 2014’ plan in which we’re keeping these kids together to develop them and allow them to grow and get better with each other.”
He meant that this year’s minors team will be next year’s majors squad, so look out.