A Dream to Remember for the Bears
On Thursday, July 15th, 2021 a group of thirteen area youth, known as the Up Nort’ Bears, traveled to Dyersville, Iowa to participate in the Baseball Factory Iowa Dreams Experience tournament. All thirteen young men have recently played for a Tri-County Majors baseball team. To be eligible for play the individual must have been age 12 or younger this baseball season. The players selected began practicing a few weeks prior to the tournament, as well as participated in a scrimmage game with another 12U baseball team from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
The Bears had an outstanding showing in Iowa, representing our area well by executing an outstanding level of baseball, while also displaying an impressive level of sportsmanship. The tournament was challenging, as the bases were further apart, pitching took place from a mound, and rules were much more restrictive than our players were accustomed to, however, these players took every change in stride and showed what hard work, dedication, and the love of baseball means. When the players took the field, no one could have guessed that they have not played this level of baseball before.
Friday and Saturday of the tournament were pool play to decide which seed teams would be heading into Sunday’s single elimination bracket day. The Bears took on their first opponents, the Minneapolis Millers, on Friday, July 16th. While parents were waiting to see some jitters on the field, everyone was shocked that the boys went out and played like a group that has been playing together for years. The Up Nort’ Bears won the game 14-5. The second game was played on Saturday against the team from Limestone. The Bears came out ready to win and did so with a score of 11-8. With the outstanding play from all players, great pitching, and even some home runs from Tadyn Angell, Daniel Vacho, and AJ Guerra, these two days the Bears ended up coming ahead as the 2nd seed moving into Sunday’s bracket play.
Saturday night proved to be a fun night that these players will never forget. The Bears were invited to the Field of Dreams movie field to partake in a skills competition. The competition consisted of fastest base running, a home run derby, and a team relay. All eight teams from the tournament competed against each other, and while no Bears took the trophy in any category, they all performed exceptionally well and were proud of how it all turned out. Dominic Kopacz should have won the night for his outstanding comedic performance where he ran right through the base ending point to continue running into the corn fields that the movie is most known for. The players then got to go on the field for “Catch with Dad”, another memorable moment from the movie, and were able to watch the movie on a large screen behind the house where the movie was filmed.
The Bears arrived back at the Dyersville fields ready for play on Sunday. Heading in as the number 2 seed meant that they started the day taking on the Minneapolis Millers once again. The Bears came out strong and ended up only playing three innings due to a mercy rule of the tournament. With a 17-2 win, the bears were moving on in competition play. With Limestone having defeated their opponent, the Bears would meet them again in the semi-finals. Limestone came out with very strong bats and got off to an early lead. While the Bears never gave up and ended up scoring some great runs to edge closer, there just was not enough time left in play, as the games were ended at 1 hour and 30 minutes, and the Bears fell 5-8 to Limestone.
The experience in Iowa was one that the players for the Up Nort’ Bears will not soon forget. As one can imagine, a tournament like this was extremely costly, but with generous donations from many businesses the players were able to attend. When the head coach, Corey Nelson, first had the idea to head to Iowa the cost, and how to cover it, weighed greatly on him. As it was important to him that no player was left out due to financial circumstances, he began approaching businesses to help cover the costs for families. With generous donations from area businesses and donors, the players and their families were able to attend the tournament with all entrance and hotel costs fully covered. Additionally, funds allowed for a team meal to be provided on Thursday night.
The players of the Up Nort’ Bears are: Daniel Vacho, Tanner Nelson, Isaac Brown, Abram Bates, Cash LaBrie, Dominic Kopacz, AJ Guerra, Max Pockat, Beau Pockat, Connor Nichols, Tadyn Angell, Logan Halida, and Lucas Halida. The Bears were coached by: Corey Nelson, Tyler Pockat, Derek Nichols, Corey Halida, and Phil Angell.