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Epic trip for local baseball team

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 5:31 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided by Steven Lemon)
Players from a Batavia-based youth travel team engage in a postgame gift exchange with a team from Taiwan during the Batavia team's overseas trip earlier this month.

BATAVIA – Mark Pelley helps small manufacturing companies reach customers across the globe with his own company, Global Marketing, LLC. 

Without a glut of networks or cash, it can be tough for certain companies to reach potential customers in far away lands like China and Taiwan.

Pelley’s company makes that possible with resources that allow the smaller companies to thrive. Roles were reversed for Pelley last year when he was on a business trip to Taiwan. Pelley is an assistant coach for the Batavia Bandits travel baseball program and wondered aloud to his Taiwanese associates if an American team had ever come over and played other youth teams from the talent-rich island.

It was quickly confirmed that no American team had ever played in Taiwan, but it was possible if Pelley and the Bandits were up for it. 

Kids affiliated with the Kane County Bronco 13U league were called, parents were persuaded and money was raised, putting the wheels in motion for what would turn out to be a once-in-lifetime trip. A year later, 10 boys – Sean Adams, Jarrad Chabria, Joey Beudoin, John Lemon, Tyler Munoz, Alec Salyards, Luke Rothengass, Justin Pelley, Donovan Smith and Matt Schoppe – boarded a plane Aug. 5 for Taiwan to play against the best Taiwan youth baseball had to offer.

Pelley’s business associates took care of most of the accommodations for the 10-day trip that started in Taipei City. 

“We could have not have done this without the people helping from Taiwan,” Pelley said. “My one associate – he and I have been doing business together for 20 years – his company arranged for a five-star tour bus that had everything so the boys were comfortable. They went out of their way to make sure we had everything. There wasn’t any detail that was left uncovered. They had arranged for the food every day at our hotels. Everything was done.”

With seemingly all potential logistical pitfalls accounted for, the Bandits were allowed to focus solely on enjoying their 10-day stay. Bandits head coach Dan Rothengass, a contractor from Batavia, hand-picked the team from several organizations in the area that made up the 10-man squad. 

The teams that the Bandits encountered were elite, hand-picked squads that play baseball year-round. Among other things, the Bandits had to adjust to what Rothengass said was a 10 mph jump in average fastball speed from what the boys wereused to, but also wicked curveballs that the Taiwanese pitchers consistently threw for strikes. 

“The teams we played were elite. They were a very solid group of kids that we played. They go to school to play baseball and they are a very disciplined group of kids,” Rothengass said. “We were in each and every game and like I said, we only brought 10 kids. Our guys gave it their all and then some; they never really wavered from that. We were playing kids that were maybe a higher caliber than us, but our kids fought the whole way.”

Pelley’s business associates were able to set up games in stadiums that compared to Geneva’s Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, with capacities in excess of 10,000. Along with the potential amazement of their surroundings, the players the Bandits took the field against were sometimes older, bigger and faster. 

“The other big distinction between us is many of the teams came from what I would liken to a baseball academy. My associates told me that some of the teams we played, the kids had no shot at doing anything in their life because they had no parents or family,” Pelley said. “But the government said they had baseball ability so they put them in schools that that’s all they’re doing and they’re not really learning anything else.”

Despite what seemed like an apparent talent gap, the Bandits more than held their own in the eight games they played. The Batavia-based squad played its best game on the final day of the trip, eventually settling for a 5-5 tie when rain forced the end of the contest. 

“I got a lot of good feedback from the kids. They said, ‘Coach, this trip was just the coolest thing,’” Pelley said. “All of our kids are looking to play high school ball all on up. So, this trip looks really good on the resume.”Along with the baseball resume, the Bandits players can stock their own personal portfolio with lasting memories including an 8,500 foot climb up an enormous hill. The team also went to the top of Taipei 101, which after checking in at 1,669 feet, is the third tallest building in the world.

“I think hands down we saw some of the best players that Taiwan has to offer,” Rothengass said. “I just hope the kids got a good experience out of it. Whether it’s a baseball experience or a life experience, I just hope they got something out of it.”

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