ST. CLOUD − It's always a dream to win a World Series for any baseball kid. The Waite Park 9U AAA Blue team will be able to live out that dream next summer after a successful 2022 season.
The Waite Park Blue team just returned from Boonville, Missouri, where this nine-year-old team went 5-1 and won the 2022 Midwest Plains Cal Ripken Baseball Regional Championship.
This was the last tournament of the season, but it means the team will play in the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth Baseball 10-year-old World Series in August 2023.
It was a memorable season for head coach Rick Wildtraut as these nine-year-old players have been playing together from February to August. There's a brotherhood in the dugout and it's been showing in the steady improvement all season long.
The Waite Park Blue team played 12 Gopher State league games and then traveled around the Midwest to play in tournaments and compete against some of the best teams in the area. In the middle of July, Waite Park hosted the state tournament and this Waite Park team won the tournament to earn a spot at regionals.
Wildtraut said the team was hoping to win state and earn a bid to the regional tournament. At regionals, they were hoping to play their best baseball and win a couple of games against the best teams in the Midwest region.
"[The Waite Park players] were playing at a high level which is super fun to watch knowing that they have many years ahead of them," Wildtraut said.
The regional tournament has eight teams from around the Midwest in states like North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri and other states. This tournament places teams into pool play where every team plays every team in its pool.
The Waite Park Blue team was very successful and earned a spot in the bracket play to close out the weekend. The bracket play was single elimination and the Waite Park players continued to win each game.
Eventually, Waite Park faced off against West Fargo in the championship game and West Fargo had 10-run ruled Waite Park twice in previous tournaments over the summer. This group of Waite Park players continued to improve each game and ended up winning the championship game over West Fargo to win the regional tournament.
"Realistically, they turned into brothers," Wildtraut said. "All of these kids from February until August have been glued together through lessons and games. They've matured tremendously and it's crazy to think where they were at to where they are now.
"They have this winning culture of we understand that working hard and hustling and doing our positions is ultimately, in the team atmosphere, that's what we want to get."
Wildtraut said he doesn't think it's set in yet for the players that they're playing in the World Series next summer, but he's so proud of what they've done all season. They've continued to focus on building their skills and cheering on each of their teammates.
Next year, this Waite Park team will be preparing all season for the World Series tournament in Indiana with 20-25 teams from around the country. It'll be an opportunity to continue building the bond between these players and playing in one of the biggest tournaments in the country.
Brian Mozey is the high school sports reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach him at 320-255-8772 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrianMozey.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to sctimes.com today.
This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: Waite Park 9U baseball team headed to World Series next summer