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Mantecans heading to Cooperstown TOC in August

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Northgate Little League major division all-stars Jake Pruitt, from left, Ian Rodriguez and Chris Ah You will play in the prestigious National Cooperstown Tournament of Champions in August.


POSTED July 2, 2009 1:53 a.m.
The fun begins for Northgate Little Leaguers Chris Ah You, Jake Pruitt and Ian Rodriguez on Fourth of July weekend.

The trio will compete in the District 67 All-Star 11-12-year-old Tournament in Tracy with hopes of advancing to the Section 3 Tournament, and perhaps make it to divisionals.

Anything past that, however, will present quite the dilemma for them.

That’s because their Club All-Star team out of Stockton is headed to the mother of all 12-and-under travel-ball tournaments in August — the National Cooperstown Tournament of Champions in New York.

Last year, Northgate Little League alumni Jordan Kron and Justin Nieto led Tracy-based All-American Sports Academy to a 10-0 finish and the title.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, albeit costly, experience for young ball players to face some of the nation’s best. But Pruitt will have a chance to go through the process a second time around.

He and fellow Mantecan Dakota Connors helped Club All-Star take 10th place last year. The Cooperstown All-Star Village, situated near the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, hosts over 100 12-under teams and a massive TOC event per week.

“The baseball competition is really good,” Pruitt said.

Participants are treated to a tour of the Hall of Fame, and the sightseeing possibilities for the families are endless.

Players are also assigned dorm rooms.

“That’s the funnest part,” said Pruitt, who pitches and catches for both his Northgate Little League and Club All-Star teams.

Travel ball offers a welcome change from Little League’s style of play for Ah You and Rodriguez. Ah You plays center field for Club All-Star, while Rodriguez pitches and plays first base.

“The game is pretty much the same, everything is just farther,” said Rodriguez, adding that the mound is five feet farther from the plate, and the distance is five feet farther between bases. “It’s also fun being able to pick off runners.”

Now for that dilemma.

Club All-Star will compete in the second weekly NCTOC of August, the same week of the Little League West Regional in San Bernardino. But Northgate will have to win district, sectional and divisional state tournaments to get to that point.

It’s a long and arduous path that the Tracy National Little League major division all-stars took in 2005, and their West Regional contests were televised on ESPN.

“We have a good chance,” the Northgate trio said in near unison when asked about the possibility.

And if they do?

“We didn’t pay all that money (for Cooperstown) for nothing,” Ah You said.
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