POUND IT HOME — Eden Post 880’s Dave Baskerville greets Brad Palmerton, as he heads into the dugout.The following guest column is by Journal Sports Correspondent Dave DeLuca.
If I was given a nickel for every time a coach talked about what a great group of players he or she had; I would be sitting with my feet in the sand on a beach somewhere instead of at my desk typing. Coaches stress the character of their players quite often, to me.
That’s why I always say that I get to cover the best athletes in the world, high school athletes. However, sometimes it’s uncertain whether or not the players will exemplify that to me, as a member of the fifth estate.
To put things in simple terms, I’m a high school sports junkie. Whether it’s an athlete wearing the purple in West Valley and Springville or a teenager playing the sport they love in the Northtowns; I’m always intrigued. That’s why, when Eden Post 880 Coach Gordy Karstedt told me the following, this during our first interview, I was skeptical.
“I can’t say enough about them,” said Karstedt, about his team. “We’ve always looked towards Springville for help, because they’re quality kids. That’s what we look for. Gowanda has quality kids; Eden and North Collins has quality kids. You don’t see anyone arguing or fighting. Our team is just a nice mesh of kids.”
RALLY BACK, BOYS — The Eden Post 880 players wear their “rally caps” in the dugout, during a game. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
I was skeptical, when I looked at the location of the kids on this team. I asked myself, “How would a team with players from a few neighboring towns mesh so well together?” I just couldn’t see it happening. The American Legion team would sport 11 all stars. I wondered how a kid would deal with not being the star of the team, like they may have been on their school team. After two months of attending games, I couldn’t have been more incorrect.
Eden Post 880 finished the season 16 – 4 – 1, won their second consecutive division title and received the top seed in the playoffs. Even though Eden fell to Orchard Park, to end their season without winning the championship; it was one heckuva a summer.
I would personally like to thank Karstedt, Coach Bob Burnside, Coach Keith Baskerville and Coach Palmerton, for making me feel very comfortable each outing at the park. Every game, it was something else with this group. Every game, I was finding something else to applaud.
One of the team’s youngest members, Dave Baskerville who will be just a junior at Eden High School in the fall, acted much older than his age. He led the Eden bench in their so-called chirping; always coming up with clever jokes, to get the liveliness out of his team. He knew exactly how to do it, too. Baskerville led all the dugout shenanigans, too. A couple times, I saw him re-enact a war-like scene; using his hands as binoculars and a bat as an imaginary sniper. Why? Beats me; the team and I sure got a kick out of it.
A few veterans on the team led by example and were never afraid to be vocal. The son of the coach, Dan Karstedt, acted much like his dad. He was the father of the group. When it was big situation or a tight game; Karstedt would get the guys together and say a few words. He is one of the best players to ever come out of Eden High School.
As a senior, he hit .523 and was an All Western New York First Team selection. He batted .405 for his career, including 58 RBIs. He was also the Eden Post team’s top run producer. He will take his talents back to Mercyhurst College, where he will continue playing baseball, heading into his sophomore year.
Erie Community College second baseman and North Collins graduate Kyle Sherman was the lighting rod of the group. He brought infectious energy and spark to the team, while playing a sound shortstop. You can tell that Sherman loves the game of baseball. The one thing you might say he loves equally is winning. No matter what the score was, he was never ready to throw in the towel or coast the rest of the way. No score was ever insurmountable.
Todd Gardner began the year as the team’s starting centerfielder, but ended the season sitting on the pine. In a work accident, while working Gardner broke his wrist and missed the final four games, of the season. The cast on his wrist didn’t stop Gardner from attending those games and cheering on his teammates.
Those three players were the heart and the soul of this team. While leading the young group, the three were also playing their last year for Eden Post 880, because of their age. It was great to see the respect their teammates showed them, after their final game, against Orchard Park. After the final out, the three were approached by the rest of their team and received handshakes and hugs.
“Thanks for everything Dan,”one player said.
“Kyle, I’m going to miss you man,” said another.
“It’s been an honor to play with you, Todd,” Said one more.
That moment, I realized what this team meant to each other. Playing 21 games in a two-month span can sometimes be a grind, but not with these guys. They took full advantage of every game, every inning and every at bat to get the most out of it. It’s no surprise when you take a peek at the #880 hashtag on twitter, how these guys think of one another
“Hey, it was a fun ride with the #880 boys. I look forward to watching you guys tear it up, next year. This is more than just a team. #family” tweeted one of the team’s veterans, who won’t be returning to the team next year, because of his age.
“Win or lose boys; we go down as a family. #880” tweeted a player, after their 9 – 7 loss to Orchard Park that ended their season.
That may say it best. The team could have easily had a winning season, playing for themselves. What made the difference was their desire to play with each other; to play for one another; their commitment to play as a family and not just a team.
It didn’t matter whether Baskerville was leading his soldiers, during a Gettysburg-esque battle on the bench, or a slugfest with Jaworski Post, on the field, they did it as a family.
Yes, Coach Karstedt, a nice mesh of kids, indeed.