For many baseball and softball student-athletes at the high school level, the summer is spent on a field with a summer league team playing with those once considered enemies during the school year.
So also is the challenge for Monroe Dixie Majors 19U as they prepare for the state championship tournament in Hammond beginning Friday.
The Monroe 19U will have its first game at the state tournament on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of Jackson Parish Recreation vs. Franklin Parish.
Monroe got a first-round bye by virtue of being the defending state champion.
The tournament winner will advance to the 2015 Dixie Majors World Series in Ozark, Alabama July 25-29.
The Monroe 19U team is comprised of some of the top players on the high school level in northeastern Louisiana which includes one of the most heated rivalries in the area – Neville and West Ouachita.
Thomas Nicholson, Will Ryan and Dixon Houston from Neville play along side Joseph Tassin and Jordan Antley of West Ouachita.
After battling tooth and nail throughout the spring for the District 2-4A title, the team players are put together for the common goal of representing their home region.
“I didn’t think I would like (playing together) at first, but it has been good,” Houston said. “We are very competitive (during the spring).”
“It was definitely different,” Tassin said. “But week by week you forget about that stuff and we have become friends.”
Others on the team include: Chase Cockrell of Oak Grove; Wesley Drake of Claiborne Christian; Grant Shepherd of Ouachita Christian; Caleb Lasyone of Georgetown; Ethan Daily and Hunter Johnson of Ouachita; Austin Diel of Forest; Stihl Smith of Caldwell; Branson Woodward of Benton; Chase Spatafora and Landry Newsom of Union Parish; Caleb Wison of Glenbrook (Mississippi).
These players are accustomed to being one of the top two or three players at the high school level within their own team. Now the team goes into the state tournament learning how to be a group of all-stars playing as one.
“Sometimes you have to accept sitting (on the bench),” Tassin said. “But it is a good experience for us that are going to college as it prepares you.”
The role player role took some getting used to for the players.
“I think guys learning to be role players is why we are doing so well,” It is a we over me philosophy.”
Connect with Cody on Twitter @cfutrellTNS or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org