Local Sports News


"LONGHORNS", Little League Baseball Champion Lamprey River All-stars
     By Mark Dupuis 11-1-12

With the crisp mornings of Fall now upon us and that smell in the air that only a New England fall day can offer, the memories of warm evenings spent at the baseball field, smelling French fries and hot dogs cooking and hearing the sounds of a Little League baseball game seem but a distant memory.  While enjoying a crisp Macintosh apple and thinking back to those warm summer evenings, in anticipation of the start of the 2012 World Series, I realized that there is no better time to relive the story of our very own “Boys of Summer”, the 2012 New Hampshire District II 11/12 year old Little League Baseball Champion Lamprey River All-stars, better known as the “LONGHORNS”.

Some may read this story and question the timing of its release, as one could argue that the real story of these boys unfolded as they made their magical journey through the all-star play-off season which occurred in late June and July.  Indeed, earning an 8-2 District II tournament record, culminating in an exhilarating 6-0 victory over the Rye All-stars to capture the District II title on July 18, 2012 in Concord, NH and being the first Lamprey River All-star team to have their name etched in the District II trophy is an accomplishment noteworthy of immediate recognition.  Why wait until (3) months later to tell the story, which may have been better told “in the moment”?  Or, is there any point in telling the story at all, some people don’t even like baseball?

As I contemplated writing this article, the answer became more and more simple.  You see, as the Manager of this amazing team and profoundly talented group of boys, the story of this journey is so much richer when you peel away the emotion and excitement that comes with the victories, the trophies and banners and the articles written in the local newspapers.  To truly appreciate this team’s accomplishment, you have to understand how much dedication, devotion and pure determination it took for this team to reach their goal of being “the best they could be”!  And unlike the two professional teams now competing for the World Series title, with their high salaries, professional coaching, and the expectation that with their success comes their next big contract, the “LONGHORNS” succeeded for one simple reason…………..all (12) players on the team loved to play baseball.

What is truly inspiring about this story, is that in a world where true commitment can be blinded by “the what’s in it for me” attitude cultured in the world of professional sports, the story of these (12) boys will help ground you and provide motivation and inspiration, helping to reinforce the fact that the innocence of youth, combined with true commitment and passion, will help you reach that which you have set as your ultimate goal.

The journey of this team started in mid-June at the all-star tryouts.  As is prescribed by Little League rules, leagues such as Lamprey River, which consists of the participating communities of Raymond, Candia, Nottingham, Auburn and Deerfield, select the no fewer than 12, no more than 13, best players from the entire group that has been nominated to attend the tryouts, to represent Lamprey River in the District II all-star state tournament.  These are players who have played on separate teams, but have never played together as an “official” all-star team.  Once the team is selected, you have less than 2 weeks to practice before your first game.  The simple fact of the matter is this, you have to take a group of players, who have all played either an infield position or pitcher, and turn them in to a team that has players competent at all positions.  I remember at the first practice asking those kids to raise their hands if they had ever played an outfield position on their respective league teams and not one single player held up their hand.

The make-up of this team consisted of (3) players from Raymond, (3) players from Candia, (3) players from Nottingham and (3) players from Auburn.  Understanding the challenge that lie ahead, I turned to my coaching staff, Tiler Eaton from Nottingham and John Reardon, from Auburn.  Their job, which they did to a level that I’ve not seen before, was to prepare these boys to be successful, but more importantly, to help establish an environment where they would be challenged, but always nurturing their passion for the game and instilling the notion in them that great things can happen if you believe in yourself, each other and you commit yourself to accomplishing your goal.

Another important component to the “LONGHORNS success is that every player respected each other and understood that they all had a role and purpose on this team.  They understood that preparation in practice would allow them to fulfill their destiny when their time was called, and it was amazing to see how serious these 11 and 12 year old boys took this responsibility.  It could be said that this teams over-all success was based on each players individual talents being melded together to form one cohesive baseball machine.  I would argue that in addition to the baseball skill that each player possessed, the personalities of each individual player helped create that “once it a lifetime” dynamic that makes good teams become great teams!

Andrew Dupuis (Raymond-12) & Brian Lambert (Candia-12), veterans from the 2011 Longhorn All-star team (which also made it to the District final), provided the leadership and motivation that you would expect of Co-captains to rally a team.  Both exceptional pitchers and over-all players, they were both pivotal in moving this team towards the ultimate goal.  Eric Reardon (Auburn-12), Nicholas Champagne (Candia-12) and John Cantwell (Nottingham-11) provided the solid back-bone for our infield and were titans at bat.  Their composure and fierce competitive nature allowed us to have the strongest infield defense of all the District II teams.  Brendan Eaton (Nottingham-11), Brian Walkey (Auburn-12) and Ben Smith (Raymond-12) provided for an outfield defense that was second to none, and would cripple opposing pitchers with their exceptional batting skills.  What makes this fact even more amazing is none of them played outfield for their respective league teams.

Tucker Arnold (Nottingham-12) and Matthew Bolduc (Raymond-11), exceptional pitchers in their own right, had to acclimate to different roles on this team, and worked through their training with determination, over-coming injuries and the uncertainty of playing their new positions, understanding that their flexibility would ultimately help the team succeed.  Andrew Lufkin (Auburn-11), whose athleticism and determination to be the best catcher he could be was only outdone by his youthful enthusiasm and his ability to make you laugh, even in the most stressful of moments.  And finally, Trevor Jawidzik (Candia-12), who despite suffering a serious finger injury and forcing him to miss most of the round-robin games, still came to every single practice, and still dressed and sat on the bench for every single game, providing unconditional support for his team mates-even turning down an offer to go away with his family for a summer vacation.

It is impossible for me to detail all of the occurrences that help lead this team to the championship.  The reality is that the passion that each of these players had for the game and the respect that they had for each other and their coaches is what set them apart and allowed them to participate in (3) hour practices in the 90+ degree heat-wanting more when practice was over, give up swimming on a hot summer day knowing that they had a game that evening, forgo a trip to the movies or a day at the beach because they had a double session practice, constantly support each other “on the fence”, even when the going got tough, treat every single game as if it were “the championship game”, earn an impressive 8-2 record in NH District II Little League play becoming the NH District Champions, and represent themselves with the utmost of character in the NH State Finals, despite playing against a much stronger and experienced District I team, that by most accounts, had been playing AAU baseball together for the last (4) years.

When reflecting back on such a great experience, you realize that there are so many people to thank, the parents of these players for their unwavering support and commitment, the Assistant Coaches who provided great mentoring, instruction and motivation to each player, all the while keeping me grounded, and the Lamprey River Board, specifically the President-Jim Pafford, for the unconditional support and assistance that they provided, especially pertaining to all of the administrative activities that are mandated by the District when fielding an all-star team.

But the biggest thank you must go to the players themselves, as they are the ones that bought into the philosophy that being a “LONGHORN” carries the responsibility of doing your individual best, supporting your team and setting a goal and committing to work hard to achieve that goal.  Because after the last pitch is thrown and after witnessing this team earn that which they truly deserved,  we must not forget the fact that they are only 11 and 12 year old boys.  Its ironic, for all that we try to teach our kids, who would have thought that these “Boys of Summer” would teach us adults a thing or two just by playing the game of baseball………….the game that these (12) LONGHORNS truly love.

GO LONGHORNS!!!!!!!!

Mark D. Dupuis
Manager
Lamprey River Little League-11/12 All-stars
NH District II Champions

 

 

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