A small-town teenage baseball team is primed and ready for its sport and cultural adventure to the land of kangaroos, koalas and crocodiles.
The 11-member Rim country diamond squad, which was assembled by Payson High School coach Teddy Pettet, departs Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport July 16 for a 14-day G'Day Sport International tour in which the team will visit both Cairns and Brisbane, Australia.
During the jaunt, the team will participate in several baseball tournaments and have the opportunity for a glimpse of life Down Under.
After the 30-hour flight to Cairns, the team will visit Wild World Animal Park and then spend several days at the Cairns Colonial Club resort.
In Cairns, the team participates in three days of play in an Australian baseball tournament.
Since the tour is designed to be both a cultural and athletic exchange, the team also visits the country's spectacular Great Barrier Reef.
After a catamaran trip to the reef, marine biologists will provide the teens with an information presentation and escort them during a visit to an underwater observatory. The athletes also have the opportunity to snorkel along the reef.
The players' agenda in Cairns also has them taking a trip on the Kurandra scenic railway that winds its way through 15 tunnels and past Stoney Creek and Barron Falls. At Kuranda village, the athletes have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs in the numerous art galleries and shops.
A scheduled ride on the Sky Rail will take the players down range over the rain forest and to the Tjapukai Cultural Center. There, they will take in aborigine dances and try their hands at throwing spears and boomerangs rather than baseballs.
The day wraps up at the cultural center with a farewell Aussie barbecue.
On July 23, the team leaves Cairns and travels to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. The squad's eventual destination is Toowoomba which is a small city at the top of the Great Dividing Range. At Harristown High School in Toowoomba, the players will meet the host families they will live with for the next few days.
During their stay with the hosts, the players attend classes at Harristown High and participate in a three-day baseball tournament.
Cultural activities near Toowoomba include a visit to Paradise Country where the players can try their hands at whip cracking and sheep shearing. Also on the schedule is a visit to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast and a stay at the ritzy Gold Coast International Resort. At the resort, the players will have plenty of free time to enjoy the scenic beaches of the Gold Coast.
On the last day of the Australian visit, July 29, the team will have time for shopping, resting and playing in the ocean. The leisurely day wraps up with an Aussie dinner held by the resort pool. The following day, the team travels by bus to Brisbane to catch the flight home.
For Pettet, the anticipation of the international tour is growing each day.
"I'm excited, I'm really looking forward to it," he said.
To earn the nearly $2,000 it took for each player to make the trip, the teens have sponsored fund raisers and benefits since last spring.
Team members include Darin Grover, Ty Brunson, Rob Ochoa, Tyler Williams, Russ Wegner, Jeremy Heairet, John Beeson, Mark McRae, David Curtiss, Chase Armstrong and Waylon Pettet. All but Armstrong are from Payson and Pine. Armstrong played at Camp Verde high school last season.