Team Dominate: The Story of the 2011 Milford (DE) High School Baseball Team

Posted on November 9, 2011

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By Geoff Ratliff

While working hard to build our social media presence, we found these guys on Twitter and thought that their story was one worth sharing. I hope you enjoy.

Every little boy starts out with a dream. Some want to be firemen, some want to be doctors, some want to be the President; but we all start out with a dream, and for most of us, that dream starts out innocently enough with visions of being a ball player of some sorts. Football, basketball, baseball, it doesn’t matter, we just want to play forever. For me, it was baseball. Even after my little league days were well behind me, and my high school baseball aspirations were crushed by the fact that I couldn’t hit, I still spent many a summer evening playing stick ball with my friend Robert, imitating the stances of my favorite hitters – at the time Ken Griffey, Jr., Jose Canseco, or Darryl Strawberry – with each new at bat.

But imagine for a second that the dream is not yours alone. Imagine that you got to share this dream with your Little League teammates, and instead of going your separate ways in junior high or high school, you get, as the politicians would say, four more years. That dream became a reality for twelve young men that made up the core of the 2011 Milford High School (DE) baseball team. This is not just a story about a team that had the best regular season record (17-3) in school history, or that ended the season as Henlopen Conference Champions; it’s about the hard work and dedication that these teammates put into their success, about the history of their friendship, but above all, it’s a story about keeping the dream alive just a little while longer, as all twelve of these young men have aspirations of playing college or even pro ball. This is a dream that is not yet over for any of them, one that they hope will last a lifetime.

Josh James, Jerrell Allen, Devon Reed, Connor Luff, Quinn Abbott, Josh Gorney, Zach Huk, Nick Grant, Georgie Michael, Jacob Richard, Caesar Vazquez, and Chris Huk were all teammates, are all still friends, and now more like brothers. From the time most of them were ten years-old, they grew up wanting to be nothing more than ballplayers. Baseball was more than just a game to them, it was a unifying force that pushed them to train with each other and play the game for one another. They shared a common dream of wanting to play at the college or professional level, and approached the game with a level of heart and desire that pushed each one to achieve that dream. The unprecedented team success that they experienced this past season was a tremendous reward for their hard work, a sign that their efforts were not in vain. More than the success that they experienced on the field, however, baseball was a conduit to a bond that will continue for years.

The Polytech game. Ah yes, THAT game. The one game from the 2011 season that encapsulates all that this team represents demonstrating the foundation of their character. Milford jumped out to an early 6-0 lead by the 2nd inning, well on their way to a route of their conference rival. All the bats were alive that day, racking up hits in bunches. As boys often do, the Milford crew got a little complacent and Polytech fought back furiously. Hell, they had pride too. The teams went back and forth throughout the game until the bottom of the 7th inning, where Poly held on to a 14-13 lead. If Milford doesn’t score here then the game is over, and they will have suffered an embarrassing loss in front of their home crowd. The trash talk had reached an epic point by now. The Milford squad had a target on their backs the entire season from other programs throughout the state, and Polytech was happy to be taking dead aim. Short-stop Devon Reed rallies the troops with a solo home run to tie the game at 14, providing hope for the home team, and snatching momentum away with the Jaws of Life!  After a 1-2-3 top of the 8th – now extra innings – the second baseman, Josh Gorney, gets a base hit with 1 out. The next batter hits a ball to the first baseman and Gorney rounds the bag too far without looking, only to be thrown out at second! There goes Mo; still 14-14. They shut Polytech down for another inning and get ready to hit in the bottom of the 9th. With runners on first and second and two outs, Quinn Abbott gets a base hit to right field. Jerrell Allen rounds and heads for home for what is sure to be the game winning run, except, again as boys will do, Quinn forgets to touch first base while celebrating his walk-off hit. The right fielder, aware of the error, threw the ball to first base for the third and final out! To the tenth we go. Finally, with the score still 14-14 in the bottom of the 10th, and a runner on second, Gorney redeems himself, and his teammates, with a hit past first to score the game-winning run! Success and failure, arrogance and humility, error and perfection, and ultimately victory; what else would you expect from the Milford gang?

What did Vince Lombardi famously say? Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing? You could say that that mantra drove this band of brothers to the success they’ve experienced thus far:

“…all of us want to win so bad that winning became the only thing we knew,” says James “and if someone wants to win, they go out and work hard and that is what we did. An hour drive to train every single day after school, hit every day, throw everyday and come home to do homework, sleep, and repeat the same pattern.  We did these things because we love baseball, we love success, and we owed it to each other to be the best individually so that it could translate to wins on the field. We all pushed each other to be better than the other which made the talent and potential so amazing that MLB pro-scouts and colleges from everywhere across the nation took notice of the team we had. Our hard-work is what led us to a 17-3 record, best record in Milford history, Conference championship, two MLB draft picks, and a number of College Baseball Players and up and coming MLB Prospects.”

As many dreams often are, this one was not perfect, nor is it complete. The Buccaneers did not win the State Title, despite that record setting regular season, which of course made saying good-bye a lot harder. As the school year ended and the summer came to a close, the time came for the boys to go their separate ways. While Grant, Michael, Richard, Vazquez, and Huk will all be back to give it another go in 2012, the others have spread to colleges and minor league farm teams to take the dream to the next level. They are as close as ever and stay in touch with each other constantly on Twitter and Facebook, but it’s been hard having not seen each other for a few months. Undoubtedly that will change as the Holiday season rolls around and many of the crew returns home, however briefly, to their friends and families, carrying along as if no time had passed.

A lucky few will be able to extend the dream longer than others. For some that means college, and for others even making it to the show, but at some point the dream ends and we are left with only the memories of glory days past. But even when the game is no longer a part of their daily lives, the Milford crew will always have each other; another victory for Team Dominate!

Contact Geoff at geoff@popflyboys.com and follow him on Twitter at @sglemarriedguy

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