Every October ends with a Major League Baseball team being crowned the champion of the league. For baseball fans, it’s the best month of the year.
For Little Leaguers around the country, including southeast Kansas, summer is their time to shine.
The Outlaws, a 12-and-under team with players from Humboldt, Chanute and Erie, won the 12u USSSA A World Series in Liberty, Mo., Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Iola Mustang 11- and 13-and-under teams played in their respective USSSA AA World Series tournaments. The 11-and-under Mustangs took home fourth place, while the 13-and-under squad came in 13th.
When a Major League Baseball team wins the World Series, all the players get rings and a bonus — last year’s bonus money for the champion Boston Red Sox was $307,323 per player.
The Outlaws won their World Series and brought home rings, but unfortunately, their was not a bonus check waiting for them.
This is the second season the team has played. In order to qualify for the World Series, the team placed third in a state tournament.
The team, for the most part, has stuck together for both seasons. The Outlaws finished the year 23-6.
“They’re progressing nicely,” coach Cody Lassman said. “They’re going to be ready for high school ball if they keep up at this pace.”
The Outlaws will play again next season, and will know soon who is coming back a shot at defending their championship.
“We have a banquet at the end of the season, in about a month or so and we kind of ask everyone then and see if they’re on board with next season,” Lassman said. “We do fundraisers and all that stuff. So, we’ll know shortly who’s coming back.”
The Outlaws went 7-0 in winning their World Series tournament, averaging 6.71 runs, while allowing less than three, the lowest of any team in the tournament.
Lassman has coached the Outlaws both seasons, at the urging of some parents. He had previously coached recreation league teams. Mike Saucedo served as an assistant coach this season.
LUKE BYCROFT is the coach for both the 11- and 13-and-under Iola Mustangs, which both played in Omaha, Neb., for their tournaments.
The 11-and-under team finished with a 29-10 record. They earned a trophy for their fourth-place finish, which capped their season.
The 13-and-under team went 34-14, finishing 13th out of 24 teams in the World Series.
“It felt like we should have done better,” Bycroft said. “The team that beat us and knocked us out was a team that we had beaten soundly the time before we had played them. Sometimes that’s how baseball is, game to game. We beat them pretty badly, then we turned around and didn’t play a good game and they beat us and took fourth.”
Bycroft has coached both teams for all three years the teams have been together. Bycroft has coached in some capacity since he moved to Iola in 2002. He also coaches Iola High School’s freshman boys basketball team.
Although the team’s didn’t win their World Series tournaments, Bycroft recognizes the teams played well all year.
“Great seasons,” Bycroft said. “Both teams won. The 13-year-olds won two tournaments and took second twice. The 11 year olds won three tournaments.
“The last couple weeks, we didn’t meet our expectations at the state tournament and the World Series,” Bycroft said. “We really thought we could have won both of those.”
One of the struggles for Bycroft was both teams had games simultaneously. Assistants helped him out all week. Steve Zimmerman assisted with the 13-and-under team. Troy Smith and Heath Curry worked with the 11-and-under squad.
Bycroft also had help from three former players of his, Ryan Latta, Jarred Latta and Clint Heffern.
BOTH the Outlaw Boys and each Iola Mustangs team will return next season. The Mustangs plan on playing a few tournaments in September and October. When the MLB season ends and a new champion is crowned — after all, the Red Sox are in last place in their division and have a lot of work to due to make the playoffs — kids across the United States will watch their televisions hoping to play in the World Series one day.
These kids already have.