The rare opportunity to compete on the international level has a pair of Payson High School senior baseball players setting their sites on a summer tour to Australia.
Kacy Parker and Nick Brunson say they are committed to participating in the 15-day Sports Down Under G'day International 2000 excursion, which will take a group of all-star players to Caines and Toowoomba. There, and in other Australian cities, the team will play a series of baseball games against international talent.
Also participating in the tour will be athletes from Montana, California and Nevada. In addition to baseball, the sports of soccer, basketball, swimming, volleyball and softball will be contested on the tour.
The journey Down Under won't be a first for a Payson High School baseball player. Two years ago, Bryan Zumbro, now a PHS senior, participated in a similar sports/cultural exchange. He returned to Payson proclaiming the journey a life experience he will never forget.
Zumbro, Parker and Brunson were all nominated for the touring all-star team by PHS coach Teddy Pettet.
After selection by a certified coach, athletes must undergo a preliminary interview and approval process.
Tour sponsors, which include Glendale residents Richard and Gloria Warnick, say the purpose of the exchanges -- now eight years in existence -- is for Australians and Americans to get to know and appreciate other better. Also, the sponsors say, the sports/cultural experience helps young people bring harmony and understanding to the world.
In Australia, Parker, Brunson and their teammates will have a packed schedule that includes practice games, competition, visits to tourist hot spots and cultural activities.
Some of the sites they will visit include Tjupukai Aboriginal culture park, Wild World wildlife park, Paradise Country farms and the rain forests near Cairns.
They'll also attend school with their Australian hosts where they will be asked to share American customs and culture with their classmates, sponsors say.
On their return trip, the athletes spend three days in Hawaii.
Pettet predicts the journey will be a great experience for his young players.
For Parker and Brunson to participate in the Sports Down Under experience, they must earn about $2,000 each in expenses. The money pays for airline tickets, lodging, insurance, passport expenses and some food.
The two say earning the money is a major concern, but they are thankful tour organizers have stepped forward to help out.
To raise funds, the athletes are selling commemorative T-shirts at $16 each. They're also selling raffle tickets for two round-trip tickets from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia.
Brunson and Parker are also conducting a personal letter-writing campaign asking businesses, family members, friends and sports fans to help sponsor their adventure.
Because the baseball season is under way and both are enrolled in a full load of classes at PHS, free time is limited but both say they'll work odd jobs to help earn the money.
Since they were toddlers playing T-ball, Brunson and Parker have excelled in baseball. The pair were stalwarts in Little League and later standouts on the PHS jayvee and freshman teams. They've also participated in prep summer league competition.
Last year, as juniors, Brunson was a starting outfielder on the Longhorns state championship team and Parker a reserve who saw considerable playing time.
This season, Brunson is ticketed as the Longhorn's starting center field and Parker as a pitcher and outfielder.
The two are also expected to shoulder much of the offensive burden as Pettet tries to replace most of his big hitters who graduated last spring.
In addition to excelling in baseball, Parker was an all-region performer on the PHS football team last fall.
Brunson was also a promising football and basketball player in his early teens, but a knee injury interrupted his career.
A little help
If you'd like to help the dynamic duo with their trip to Down Under, --whether it's buying a T-shirt, offering a sponsorship, or suggestions for other fund-raisers -- call Payson High School at 474-2233.