The boys of summer are back.
The question is how far they will go over the next few weeks.
Whether it is Little League or Pony League, boys of all ages from Ahwatukee Foothills are getting their baseball pants grass stained, blowing bubbles while waiting on deck, and dreaming of coming through with the game winning hit.
It is the thick of summer so only the best remain and they want to keep playing as long as possible.
While the Little League all-stars just had their opening ceremonies on Friday, the Pony League state tournament is already done and one Ahwatukee team is making traveling plans.
The Ahwatukee 10U Pony team won state while showing a high level of resiliency and now heads to the west zone championship July 26-29 near Los Angeles against teams from California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Alaska and Hawaii.
This team will come across some great opponents, but if one thing is certain the Ahwatukee team is more than comfortable when it comes to overcoming adversity.
They lost the opening game, by the 10-run mercy rule, to a Scottsdale squad, and were three outs from being eliminated in game two before storming back to beat Queen Creek.
After two more wins, Ahwatukee got another shot at Scottsdale in the title game and trailed for the first five innings before a sixth-inning rally for a 20-17 victory.
It is rare for a non-club team to succeed on the diamonds these day, but this group has found a way to get to the next level.
“It was one of the gutsiest performances I’ve seen,” coach Dave Bittner said. “I told this team at the beginning of the championship game that it was like the learning robot in ‘The Incredibles’ whose failures only made it stronger, more able to win the next time.”
They were once again down their last out but came through as players like Jack Kelly, Adam Paniagua, Dean Bittner and Jacob Peterman came through in the final inning before Kelly took the mound and secured the win in the bottom half of the inning.
“I could see in their eyes they never doubted, not for a moment,” the elder Bittner added, “that they would come back from each deficit to end up on top.”
The Little League tournaments are just heating as it enters the second half of the event at Tempe Sports Complex after the Fourth of July holiday.
Ahwatukee has a team entered in the three age groups with hopes of qualifying for the semifinals, which start July 8 for the Minors (10 and 11 year olds) and July 11 for the Majors (11 and 12) and Little League (9 and 10).
ALL has had plenty of success in the past with some disappoint mixed in as well, but the level of expectation has been different ever since that amazing run in 2006 when the Dawgs made it all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The reality is those players from those teams are off to college this fall if not already there.
That kind of expectation probably isn’t fair to the rest of the teams that have worn the ALL uniforms since then, including this year’s teams, but that is the hope of every team put together in this area.
“I was around in 2006 and I will be honest that team was an anomaly,” said Michael Mettner, manager of the 9-10 ALL team. “You just don’t get teams like that. To evaluate any team after that is just ridiculous. If a flash in the pan happens again fantastic, but let’s not diminish what these teams are accomplishing because they don’t make it that far.”
Maybe one of this year’s crop of teams can win the District 13 tournament before winning regionals and taking a shot at the state tournament.
Only time will tell.
Until then just enjoy the fact that the boys of summer are back.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.