It’s not uncommon for a youth baseball team to chant “We’re #1”
What is uncommon is for them to be right.
After an impressive 5-0-1 showing at the Arizona Super NIT, the Phoenix-based Sandlot All-Stars are the #1 10U Club baseball team in the United States.
The All-Stars’ signature win of the Tournament came in the semi-finals against the Los Angeles-based Oakley Stingrays, who had held the #1 ranking for the previous 18 months. The Santlot team was smaller in stature but walked tall off the field after their 9-0 victory. Sandlot pitcher Kai Murphy threw a complete game shutout.
“Kai probably pitched as good as I have seen him since we started the program,” said Sandlot General Manager Rob Gorrell.
“He worked fast, threw strikes, pitched backwards and basically destroyed the timing and rhythm of some very good hitters. I think the game lasted 50 minutes.”
Kai is unbeaten in his last two years on the mound but the defending National Champion Stingrays provided another level of difficulty.
“They have this giant kid that’s my Dad’s size that’s supposedly 10,” said Kai.
Kai’s father, Eugene Emeralds manager Pat Murphy, is no small man. And his son’s accomplishment was no small feat. Coach Murphy started the Program and has seen it grow from a backyard project into the nation’s elite 10U team.
“While they were playing Oakley, I was coaching with the (San Diego Padres) AAA club and we were playing at Maryvale,” said Pat.
“The players on the bench were following right along with me. I was getting texts every few minutes. I have to say my concentration wasn’t great.”
The texts kept coming. Finally, one jumped out that Murphy couldn’t believe:
“Your son just shut out the #1 team in the nation.”
Kai shrugs off his performance but Coach Gorrell says it was something special.
Kai Murphy Pitching
“His confidence that he brings out there with him is something nobody should ever take from him,” said Gorrell.
“I will tell you they are that good but Kai made them look pretty average on that day. Oakley not only has been the top team in California where in the world of club baseball is the top state they also won the prestigious Elite 32 Championship last year in Orlando, Fla.”
Adds his Dad, “This is just part of his life and it always has been so he feels like it’s normal to be involved in baseball situations day-in and day-out. Everybody tells me he’s better than I give him credit for. Everybody comments on his poise. He’s yet to show much emotion either way.”
After the Finals win against Nomads Elite, the team celebrated at the Native New Yorker, but the party continued when travelballselect.com moved Sandlot up from #6 to #1 in the country. So far, the success hasn’t gotten into the heads of Gorrell’s pint-sized performers.
“The kids are aware of their success but it is not a huge deal to them,” said Gorrell.
“They always have a little swagger but it is good swagger. They are confident in their abilities and their teammates and basically unconcerned with their opponents’ swagger or size. The boys never do anything to disrespect themselves, their opponents or umpires. I love that about them!”
These are busy times for the kids and families of the nation’s top team. Phoenix’s ABC Channel 15 profiled the boys. They’ll have the expectations that go along with being #1 at the 2011 ELITE World Series in Orlando, Fla.