LAWRENCE — Lawrence Legion is getting an upgrade!
I mean, that’s only fitting at this point, right? Seeing as the program won it’s first ever state title and advanced to this week’s Super Regional in Worcester, positive changes are in order.
Granted, it’s not quite the same as, say, Thanos getting the Infinity Stones in the popular “Avengers” movies, but it’s an upgrade nonetheless.
That famous van Post 15 used to travel to every game during the state title run — the one that coach Julio Ramos borrowed from his church — has transformed into a coach bus.
“The Merrimack Valley Dream Center,” laughed Ramos before his team took the field for practice Sunday afternoon. “They’re lending us a coach bus for the rides to Worcester.”
If there was any team deserving of such an upgrade, it’s this Lawrence one.
As the team gathered before Sunday’s practice, waiting for a men’s league game to wrap up on the high school field, it was yet another great time for Ramos and his team to reflect. The players took turns beating balls off a tee and into a net, all while sharing jokes and pictures on their phones that drew big laughs.
It’s an easy team to root for.
They’ve already won the love of a city, and, well, quite frankly they won over the entire state with their performance at last week’s championship.
Up next, a date with Nashua in the first round of the Super Regional on Wednesday at Holy Cross (4:30 p.m. first pitch).
The eight best teams in New England will be there, with the winner of the double-elimination tournament advancing to the Legion World Series in North Carolina.
This run has been nothing short of magical, and something that anyone involved won’t ever forget.
“Getting to hang out with this group of boys and to be playing is just a blessing from God,” said shortstop Kebler Peralta.
For the younger kids, like rising senior Josias Mendez, it’s been a continued summer of learning. For the older kids, like 19-year-old Jairo Vasquez, who just finished his freshman year at New Mexico Junior College, it’s been a prime opportunity to connect with old friends and teach what they’ve learned.
But, mainly, it’s been truly rewarding to represent the city the way that they have.
“It’s been really good to see this city on the map like this,” said Vasquez. “And just to see our guys balling out, that’s what it’s all about. We’re all about baseball. We’ve all sacrificed to be out here on the baseball field, and all our hard work is finally paying off.
“You know, baseball is a game of failure, but you can never give up on it because it can be so rewarding.”
Miguel Matos can certainly attest to that.
From an Eagle-Tribune All-Star campaign for the high school team to earning MVP of last week’s state championship, it’s been quite the four-month stretch for the left-handed hurler.
“Anything we can do positively for Lawrence is just a blessing,” said Matos, who’ll be playing at Crowder College next spring. “This summer has been amazing.”
It’s certainly been amazing for sure, but was it somewhat expected?
A large part of the successful high school team came out to play, and All-Stars who have graduated like Vasquez have made this Lawrence roster loaded from top to bottom.
“Once coach Julio told me who was on the roster I said ‘Oh my God,’” said Peralta. “If we could stay focused, I knew we’d be good. And here we are!”
Confident, but not cocky.
That would be one good way to sum up this Lawrence team.
Oh, and don’t forget tight-knit.
“We took them to a Fuddruckers the other day and the booth only fits four people, but they squeezed in like six people and another six pulled up chairs to sit around them,” said assistant coach Kevin Bartlett. “And none of them were on their phones. They were just talking with each other about baseball and enjoying each other’s company.
“That’s the sort of team this is.”
Added assistant coach Josh Valerio: “It’s been such a blast for all of us. These kids have been amazing. The way they’ve represented this city has been second to none.”
Make no mistake, Post 15 is heading into the Super Regional fully intended to continue what they’ve done all summer: Win.
But it’s already been a summer no one will forget, and it’s reflected well on a city that truly loves its baseball.
“We’re all so thankful,” said Ramos. “If they didn’t have baseball, what would these kids be doing, you know? To be able to provide them with an outlet like this has been really rewarding.”