august2009

To the cornfields for a championship

August 17, 2009

Moline, IL



Daniel Makarewicz,
The desire to win.

That is what drives athletes, almost to the point where they do anything possible to attain something that may be seemingly out of reach. They crave success and search the globe to find that one opportunity to earn a championship.

Some athletes may go to Europe or Asia in their quest for a title. For Midwest Stampede pitcher Sean Whitten, the journey didn't lead him across the globe.

It led him to the cornfields of Iowa.

"I never won an ISC championship and I'm 32 and I'm not getting any younger," Whitten said. "I want to try and win a championship."

Right now offers the perfect chance.

After realizing his time was running short, the Calgary resident left a team in his native Alberta for the rolling fields of Bondurant, Iowa. It was the dream of winning an ISC World Tournament title that took him from the mountains to the plains.

"When I heard the talent they already had coming up from last year and bringing it in to this year, I said, 'Are they competitive? Are they going to be there in the end?'" Whitten said. "And all the numbers added up and all the names added up and it was good."

Yet, Whitten is not the only Midwest Stampede player who goes to great lengths in search of a title. The 18-man roster has nine players from outside the United States. In fact, seven players are from New Zealand and one other lives in Argentina.

The draw comes from a sponsor who treats players like family.

"They stay out on our farm," team sponsor and coach Steve Moulton said. "We try to make them feel like they're part of a family more than just a team. We care about them. It's become a real good relationship."

Moulton makes it easier for the players to leave their family and native land.

"A good sponsor is huge," said Stampede infielder Travis Wilson, a New Zealand native. "You get somebody that takes care of you and it's good."

It helps that the sponsor is determined to win. Moulton is a Jerry Jones-type boss, a guy willing to do whatever it takes to get a title. But Moulton refuses to take chances on questionable players.

"We want character guys," said Moulton, who owns a painting company in Bondurant. "If they don't fit in, they probably won't be back. We want guys that care about each other and who aren't individual players. We don't have a bunch of just great superstars. We do have some real good superstars, but our whole team is made up of team ballplayers."

With the right players in place, Moulton makes sure his team is treated right.

"It's everything," said Wilson, who spent the previous couple of seasons with the Broken Bow (Neb.) Patsy's. "They might fly your wife or something in to watch a weekend or something like that. Just creating an environment that makes it easy to come and play."

It is easy to play since Moulton is not totally focusing on wins.

"We don't put pressure on them to win," Moulton said. "It's more that we're going to do the best job that we can and if we win, great, if we don't, that's OK, too. That's how we look at it."

Despite the laid-back attitude displayed by the sponsor, the Stampede does have the chance to give their players a title they desperately want.

"Once you see the roster the team is putting together and you see they're trying to win and at the same time they want you to play for them, it makes you feel good," Wilson said. "It makes you know that you're going to a team that, hopefully, will be playing on Thursday or Friday at this tournament."


Late games

- Broken Bow Patsy's 8, The Bar of Appleton 0 (5 innings):
The Patsy's used a six-run fourth inning to earn the mercy-rule win. Michael Tanner had two RBIs and Fred Terkelsen had a run-scoring triple for Broken Bow. Andrew Kirkpatrick allowed three hits and struck out nine.



- Vancouver Grey Sox 8, Midland Explorers 0 (5 innings):
Vancouver had 13 hits and scored multiple runs in three innings. Scott Newitt smacked a two-run homer for the Grey Sox. Travis Price earned the win, allowing two hits in four innings while striking out nine.



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danmak@qconline.com
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