Before leaving for the West Zone PONY tournament in Whittier, Calif., players and coaches on the Napa Valley Baseball Clubs 14-and-under team took time Tuesday night to visit with former major league player Jim Landis, who is in a local care facility, awaiting hip surgery.
Landis, a five-time Gold Glove outfielder for the Chicago White Sox, has assisted the age-group team over the years. But its been about a year, he said, since he has seen the players.
When I saw them walk in, I said, Oh my God, how nice, said Landis, a Napa resident. Its a good group of boys, and that makes a world of difference.
I was very, very happy.
The Napa team won the Northern California title last week in Los Altos and begins the West Zone today at 4:30 p.m. against the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Sidewinders. The winner of the eight-team, double-elimination tournament goes to Washington, PA., for the finals.
I think were ready, said Kyle Rasmusen, Napas manager, who is assisted by Sam Jolliffe, Mike Clark and Daryl Horn. Were really hoping to end this tournament and jump on a plane the next day and go to Washington, PA. Thats the goal, and I think its attainable. Its just that youve got to have things go your way.
Were going to go down and try to hopefully make Napa proud thats the goal. Were going to fight to try and win some games and hopefully move on.
Landis, a two-time All-Star who played on six teams for 11 seasons, from 1957 through 1967, was very encouraging and supportive during the teams visit.
Its good to see you it makes my heart feel good, said Landis, who played center field and is a member of the Chicago White Sox All-Century Team. I appreciate all of you stopping by. Youve got to be happy, no matter what happens.
Each of the players either shook hands or hugged Landis, who played for the White Sox, Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox. He was wearing a White Sox hat.
Its great to be able to see him again, said Luke Lipanovich.
Landis won five consecutive American League Gold Glove Awards (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964). He had a career batting average of .247 with 93 home runs. He played eight seasons for the White Sox. In 1961, he hit .283 with 22 home runs, eight triples, and 85 RBIs. In 1963, Landis led the American League with a .993 fielding average both as a center fielder and an outfielder.
Hes very inspirational, said Rasmusen. He was a big part of the development of this group that started a couple of years ago when he helped coach. They all respond to him very well.
We wanted to get them off on a good feeling to go down and compete down there. Theres no better way than with a major leaguer sending you off. I feel fortunate to have been around Jim and thats one of the reasons I coach, is because of what he has taught me in my life.
Long Beach, Hawaii, Whittier, Farmington (Utah), Washington and Lakeside (Calif.) are also in the West Zone, which takes place at York Field in Whittier (Los Angeles County). The tournament goes through Sunday.
We want to take home the gold, said Jake MacNichols. We want to win the whole thing and get to Pennsylvania.
The NVBC won a NorCal super regional. The Napa team had to come from behind to beat Watsonville, 3-2. MacNichols hit a home run.
Trailing 2-1 with two out in the seventh inning, Lipanovich singled to left field and Jakson Wilsons double tied the score. Jake Rasmusen singled home Wilson with the winning run.
Jacob Ray gave up one hit and struck out seven in three innings. Jared Horn struck out three in the final inning.
Horn hit a walk-off grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning to lift Napa over San Jose, 8-5. Horn did not allow a hit and struck out nine in six innings. Horn was also 3 for 4.
Blake Wickersham (2 for 4), Wilson (1 for 4), Jake Rasmusen (1 for 5), Anthony Cornwell (2 for 4), Lipanovich (2 for 4), Dan Clark (1 for 4) and Tyler Rustice (1 for 3) led Napa.
The NVBC lost its next game, 6-2 to South San Francisco. The top hitters were MacNichols (1 for 3, home run), Wilson (2 for 3), Horn (1 for 3), and Cornwell (1 for 3).
Napa then beat San Jose, 5-3. MacNichols struck out seven and allowed three runs in 523 innings. Horn struck out two in 113 innings.
Wilson (1 for 3) and Rasmusen (1 for 3) led the offense.
In Game 1 of the finals, Napa beat South San Francisco, 10-0. Napa was led by Kale Olmstead (1 for 1, home run), Lipanovich (2 for 3), Horn (1 for 3, home run), MacNichols (1 for 3, home run), Rustice (1 for 1), Clark (1 for 2), Cornwell (1 for 1), and Ray (1 for 2).
In Game 2 of the finals, Horn struck out 10 and gave up one earned run in seven innings in a 7-3 win over South San Francisco. The top hitters were Horn (2 for 3, home run), Cornwell (1 for 3), Rustice (1 for 2), and Jason Brandow (1 for 1, double).
Playing well on defense were Lipanovich, Horn, Ray, MacNichols, Rasmusen, Clark, Rustice, Brandow and Hunter Scriven.
We have faced really good pitching in these tournaments, said Lipanovich. We need to hit. We have good pitching. Were going to need that going into this next tournament.
Pitching has been a strength of the NVBC team.
Were really pitching well right now, led by Jared Horn, said Kyle Rasmusen. Jareds very dominating. Jacob Ray and Anthony Cornwell are pitching really well right now. The three guys are just really on fire on the mound, so that gives us a really good chance.
Were going to have to hit. We play great defense.
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