SALT LAKE CITY — For just the second time, a team from Utah has won the Cooperstown Dream Park Tournament in Cooperstown, New York, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The MountainWest Grays, a baseball team of 12-year-olds from Riverton, won five games in 36 hours during the week of June 2. The tournament featured teams from Georgia, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Ohio and Illinois.
The Grays defeated two Florida teams in the semifinal and final rounds that were ranked in the top five in the 12-and-under division of the USSA power rankings. The tournament-clinching win came against the Next Level Prospects of Florida, 12-6. According to National Youth Baseball Championship rankings, the Grays are now ranked 15th in the nation.
The team's motto was “Play for your brother next to you.”
"We worked hard in practice and a lot before the tournament and we were prepared," said Nash Matheson, the Grays' right fielder.
The Grays were the beneficiary of community and family support. After the final out, parents took the field, waiting to take pictures of their children who had just won one of the most high-caliber youth baseball tournaments in the country.
Twelve weeks of tournaments are held in Cooperstown each summer where several youth teams are given a chance to compete. Other Utah teams that have competed this summer include the Cedar Crush, SBA Baseball Utah Aces, Utah Devils, Utah Ducks, Utah Marshalls, Cache Valley Wolverines, CBA Summit, Sliders Baseball, Team Rock, UV Kings, Roadrunners, UC Tigers, Utah Bolt, Park City Baseball, TC Predators, Utah Owlz, Utah Elite, Utah Tribe, Heat Xtreme, Lone Peak Knights and Olympus Titans.
The last Utah team to win this tournament was the Salt Lake Sidewinders during week six in 2013.
Following the tournament, the team celebrated with pizza and wings until 1:30 a.m., despite plans for some families to head back to Utah as early as the next morning.
"Families are extremely involved when we're together three to six days per week in a short period of time," said Rob Andrews, the Grays' assistant coach and team manager. "They become your extended family."
"It was an unforgettable moment," said David Piersall, the Grays' head coach, whose son Drake is on the team. "To take a local team out there that can go to the same high school and win? That's pretty special."1 comment on this story
The kids on the team painted fences and hosted a golf tournament to be able to raise enough money for themselves and their families to make it to New York.
"It's a financial burden," Andrews said. "The boys realize they have to do their part. They have to go out and earn the thing they want in this life. There's a work ethic involved."
The Grays are set to compete in the Triple Crown World Series in Park City at the end of July. They are previous champions of the tournament.
"My teammates have become my best friends," Matheson said. "I'm excited to get out there and play more baseball."