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PAL baseball team headed to World Series

July 27, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

A year ago the Imperial Valley Police Activities League sponsored a 15- and 16-year-old baseball team in the PAL World Series in Tucson.

The Valley squad finished in third place, which was quite an accomplishment. But for those who played and coached, third place was not good enough.

This year the Valley PAL will take another group of baseball players to compete in the World Series, this year in Kissimee, Fla. from Sunday through Aug. 5, and team members think things will be different.

"I know we should've won it last year," said 16-year-old Javier Calles of Brawley. "We're going to go back and show them that we are good enough to take it."


What may have worked for the Valley team last year when it finished with the tournament's best record at 5-1 was the element of surprise.

"I think last year a lot of those other teams maybe underestimated us because of where we're from," said Calles, who will play third base and pitch. "And I think they didn't feel that we belonged there. So it was good to go in and do as well as we did. So we're going in this year and we're going to try to do the same thing and hopefully we'll do better."

While Calles and teammates Brandon Burnett and Joel Aguirre of Brawley, Enrique Lechuga of El Centro and Ray Roben of Imperial, enter the tournament wanting to exact a bit of revenge for last year, some of the newer, younger players aren't going with the same thing in mind.

For someone such as El Centro's Javier Vasquez, the tournament isn't about what could've been and should've been last year but what will be this year.

"This is all new to me, so I can't really think about what happened last year," said the 15-year-old Vasquez, who will play second base. "Our goal is to get to the championship and I think we have the guys to do it. We have good pitching, good hitting and good defense, so I think we're good enough to get there."

Added Brawley's Lafayette Lofton: "We're going to play in this thing because we do belong. Even though this is a new experience to a lot of us, it's not intimidating playing those teams from around the U.S. I think we have a really good team and I think we're good enough to win it all."

While last year's team was good enough to take third, coach Pedro Carranza thinks this squad may be better than what he had a year ago.

The team is younger, with 10 players 15 years old, but what the squad lacks in experience, Carranza thinks it makes up in talent. The team doesn't have the same power as last year, but it is an all-around quicker team, and Carranza thinks speed will be the main focus of the offense.

Although this is a fairly new team, Carranza still has the sour taste of last year in his mouth.

"I think we kind of let ourselves down last year," said Carranza. "That's still fresh in our memory. I know we could've taken it last year. We're going back this year with that in mind and I think we have as a good a chance as anyone else in the tournament."

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