The Payson Junior Little League baseball team’s run through the postseason was nothing short of magical.
The team opened pursuit of a state berth by winning the Area 1 championship in Payson.
With the “W,” the team advanced to the District 1 tournament in Lakeside. There, the team won again to become one of only a handful of Payson teams to win both area and district titles.
Most remarkable, is that the All-Stars won every area and district tournament game on the 10-run “mercy rule.”
In the state tournament, Payson shocked the Little League world by upsetting highly favored Chandler National, 12-0, which was yet another “run-rule” victory for the Payson Stars.
Losses to Goodyear and Paradise Valley eliminated the team from the state tournament, but shouldn’t diminish the accomplishments of the players, their manager and coaches.
In retrospect, the group might be metaphorically called “The Little Team That Could,” mostly because the players seemed to be repeating that famous motto, “I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can” throughout the season.
Like the “Little Engine That Could,” the Junior All-Stars overcame seeming insurmountable odds to finish fifth overall in the state tournament — the granddaddy of Little League play.
The Stars ride into the postseason is a tale of motivation and the power of positive thinking.
Equally as impressive as the Stars’ play was that manager Tony McNeeley and his coaches took the high road and refused to protest or complain on the final day of the tournament when a questionable decision by officials postponed the final game against Paradise Valley, meaning it had to be resumed the following day.
The decision to call off the game on Saturday and resume on Sunday clearly gave PV a huge and, from my point of view, unfair advantage.
While the manager and coaches couldn’t help but be disgruntled, they accepted the postponement decision with class and character.
Manager says thanks
McNeeley penned the following thank you that he ask we publish.
“The Payson Junior Little League All-Star team would like to thank and express their gratitude to the following who helped us along on our journey. You all honor us with your support and we couldn’t have had this experience without you: SemStream, Payson Elks Lodge No. 2154, Payson Concrete and Materials, Frontier Dental Arts, Jimmy Johnson — Journigan House, Dr. Alan Hallman — Star Valley Veterinary Clinic, Wendy James Laird, Payson Little League and Safeway.
“We want to express our appreciation to Don Heizer, AD at PHS for use of the high school baseball field and Jeff Stancil for all his hard work during the area tournament hosted in Payson.
“A special thanks to the Payson Elks Lodge for sponsoring our team this season and their continued support through state play.”