Baseball brought them together and in a few months it will break them apart.
There have been wins and losses, injuries, many trips to Taco Bell and plenty of time to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses on the diamond.
Before Dereck Grey, Casey Thomas and Shaun Chase start donning uniforms from three different colleges, the recent Desert Vista graduates get one more run as teammates.
The trio are playing summer ball for the Arizona Firebirds and are heading to the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M., in two weeks after winning a national qualifying tournament last week at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
“It is going to be hard because we have been best friends for so long,” Grey said. “Hopefully, we can do something special at the World Series and leave on a good note.”
They have been playing together since the Ahwatukee Dodgers days and for whatever reason they hit it off way back when their mitts where just being broken in.
It wasn’t long before they were doing stuff away from the diamond, like riding their longboards up to Taco Bell, camping out and riding four wheelers.
Through it all, of course, the one constant has been baseball.
“The best thing about (qualifying for the World Series) is getting a chance to be with these guys one more time,” Chase said. “We’ve been together since we were 5 or 6 I think.”
Grey said they call themselves The Three Amigos and they are always together.
So in the fall when Chase heads to the University of Arizona, Thomas to Yavapai Community College and Grey to Central Arizona College, there will be a bit of a void.
“I’ve always played with these guys on one team or another,” said Thomas, who was taking an official visit to the University of New Mexico this week so his college destination may change. “It will be weird when we are playing next year, but at least we got one more shot together.”
The Firebirds have been one of the better area summer club teams for years and won the Connie Mack World Series title in 2006.
The current roster is a good mix of talent, many of whom have played with each other in the past like the DV trio.
“I think it really helped us mesh together as a team pretty quickly,” Chase said. “When you have confidence the guy next to you is going to come through you can focus on your job knowing everyone else is doing theirs.”
Since the trio have played hundreds of games with each other, who better to give a scouting report on each?
Chase is a catcher by trade with a powerful swing.
“I don’t think I have ever seen anyone hit it as far as Shaun and he is a winner,” Thomas said.
Grey added, “He always has a smile on his face and makes the game fun, but when he doesn’t come through he can take it a little hard.”
Thomas is a slick-fielding shortstop who has a blue collar work ethic.
“He puts in the work and has a great approach to the game,” Grey said.
Chase said, “He has the quickest hands and I thought he was the best shortstop in the state.”
Both Thomas and Chase talked about Grey’s toughness and it is no wonder.
Early in their senior season, he was hit in the face by a thrown ball as he was legging out a ground ball. He went down in a lump, sustained a broken jaw and had surgery a few days later.
The first to visit him were the other two Amigos.
“That meant a lot to me,” said Grey, a pitcher and outfielder. “We have always been there for each other and even though I was away from the team they were still letting me know what was going on and that they would be there for me.”
They’ll be making a similar transition this fall. They might not be in the same dugout anymore, but they will always keep each other informed and stay in touch.
“It feels like I have known Shaun and Dereck my whole life and that’s not going to change,” Thomas said. “Our uniforms might change but that’s about it.”
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