Headed for the sunshine state

Published 6:50 am Thursday, June 23, 2005

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The Niles Vikings 14U travel team will be serving as the National Host team for the Elite World Series being held Aug. 1-7 in Orlando, Fla. at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
Niles will compete against 24 of the best teams in the nation and will see competition better than any they have seen before.
Something the Vikings have that other teams don't is that they represent "small town" baseball, so that and the teams ability to compete at this level is the reason they were chosen to be National Host team.
Most traveling teams are made up of the best players from one city or surrounding cities. Some members are forced to travel more than two hours just to compete. But most of the kids on Niles' team are from Niles and a few are from neighboring communities, which is only a short drive away.
Home games are played at Champ's Field, with most weekends on the road at tournaments.
Another unique trait the team has is that some of the team members have played together since they were five and six years old at Pepper Martin Park or FOP Park. Many of the members are the same players who made city history when Niles FOP qualified for state competition in the Little League World Series.
Travel baseball is for players who want to compete in more than traditional league games. The team played over 70 games last summer and will do the same this summer. The age group is 14 and under, but travel baseball is for all ages with tournaments for teams as young as eight.
Last year, the Niles team won over six tournaments, including the Michigan State Championship, which was very unusual for a first year travel team. This year, the team has already won three tournaments and will be heading to the Michigan State Championships this coming weekend.
The team is currently starting a fundraising campaign to offset some costs of travel to the Elite World Series. Entry fees are waived, but just getting there and housing will be expensive. The team has a letter writing campaign to area community members and will also hold a Chicken Dinner fundraiser July 2 at the Niles Inn and Conference center.
Trees of Honor are still available at Champ's Field, and sponsors signs as well. Contact Jim Brawley at 683-0743 for more information.