Parents of world series champions reflect on wild ride

Published 7:47 pm Wednesday, July 31, 2019

LUMBERTON — When the final out was called Wednesday afternoon in Lumberton, North Carolina, tears sprang to the eyes of several spectators in the crowd.

It wasn’t just a culmination for the 2019 Dixie Youth AAA Division II World Series Champion Valley, Alabama, All-Stars — it was also the end of a long journey for many parents and supporters in the crowd.

“It was a long, fun ride,” Drew Pike, father of left fielder River Pike, said. “I couldn’t ask for a better experience though.”

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The parents of the newly-crowned world series champs have spent the better part of the past month in hotel rooms in Tuscaloosa and Lumberton for the state and world series championships.

“Parents had to take off work, and most of us are out of vacation days by now,” Chelsea Bunn, mother of infielder Brayden Bunn.

Bunn said the support of the Valley community was paramount when it came to all the traveling and hotel stays throughout the past month. She said the city of Valley supported all of the hotel rooms for the players throughout the tournament and helped with some of the cost of the parents.

“It is definitely a blessing to be from Valley, Alabama,” Bunn said. “I moved to this city a while ago, and I would put it up against any other big town out there.”

Mayor Leonard Riley attended all of the world series games and said it was important for public officials with the city to be present.

“The city was supporting the kids from home,” he said. “We needed to be here to support the kids in person.”

Riley said the community support from Chambers County was fantastic, adding that everywhere he looked people were supporting the team.

Pike said he doesn’t think the parents can thank the home community enough for its support during the team’s championship run.

“From the people who just said good job on the win to the people who told us they were following us at the gas station because they saw our jerseys,” he said. “It means a lot to share this with the entire community.”

Pike said the kids on the field were playing for more than just themselves and the parents in the stands.

“They were playing for all of Chambers County and the state of Alabama,” he said.

After the win, several community partners acknowledged Valley’s success. King Ford boasted about the team’s win on its electronic billboard on Interstate 85. The city of Lanett and the Chambers County Development Authority made social media posts about it.

The run to the championship didn’t come without drama and a little bit of stress for the parents. After a smooth run through the world series tournament, the Valley team hit a snag on Tuesday when it suffered its first loss to North Carolina, a team it defeated just two days prior.

Before Wednesday’s game, Allison Yarbourgh, mother of pitcher and infielder Mason Yarbourgh, did the pre-game devotion with the team about perseverance. The devotion was similar to previous experiences the team had throughout the tournament.

After the second inning in Wednesday’s first game against North Carolina, Valley found themselves down 6-2. The team rallied to tie the game at 7 in the bottom of the sixth inning to force extra innings. Then, first baseman Jax Miller singled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk-off and send Valley into the championship game.

“I knew that it touched them and gave them something to cling to,” Yarbourgh said of the pre-game devotion. “I think it really did stick to them.”

In the championship game against Virginia, Valley was down early once again in the first inning by a run. However, they quickly scored in the top of the second and cruised to a 12-2 rout to claim the title.

“It is surreal,” Yarbourgh said. “I still don’t know if I understand what happened.”

Pike said the team’s ability to fight through adversity after losing Tuesday and coming back Wednesday is a testament to their comradery as a team.

“Our kids could have dropped their heads and gave up, but they didn’t,” he said. “They continued to fight. They just showed what kind of young men are growing up in the Valley.”

Bunn said it was great to watch the kids continue to pick up their teammates when things seemed grim.

“We watched our boys grow up on the ballfield,” she said. “They played for the ‘we’ instead of the ‘me.’”

Riley said the city hasn’t discussed if there will be a parade for the team as of Wednesday night, but he said the team will be honored in some fashion.