Young Gunz reach mark: Youth team makes Pacificwide playoffs
Stars and Stripes May 27, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Time was when teams of high school-aged players would enter the Pacificwide Open Interservice Softball Tournament and use it as a learning tool, while invariably compiling winless records and being outscored by an average 61-4 margin.
Not so the Young Gunz. Comprised of players from Seoul and Osan American High Schools, they went 3-3 in pool play and became the first youth team to make the playoffs in the tournament’s 18-year history.
"This team is here to win," said longtime coach LaRoy Slaughter. "I’m proud of them."
Young Gunz beat two post-level teams along the way, including a rally from an eight-run deficit to upend Osan Air Base 20-19.
All that came after six weekends of DODDS-Korea League fastpitch. They had only three days of practice to transition to slowpitch.
"It’s really different," freshman right fielder Carolyn Forrester said. "We had to adjust to the timing, the speed of the game. But when we won our first game, we knew we played well. We were psyched."
Pitcher Jen Simmons said it was a matter of finding her groove. "I found the rhythm within a day and stuck with it," she said.
They didn’t last long in the playoffs, losing 15-1 to the Lady Guzzlers and 18-2 to defending champion Sang Ji University. But making the playoffs was enough for at least one player.
"That’s so cool. That’s so awesome," sophomore shortstop Maria Garcia said. "Some really good memories and we learned a lot."
Players pile up air miles to attend PacificwideGary Lafon of Ramstein Air Base in Germany could have spent the weekend playing in a tournament at Camp Darby in Italy. Instead, the former Osan Mustang shelled nearly $1,500 out of his pocket to fly to Seoul to play in the 18th Pacificwide.
"It’s the best tournament ever," said Lafon, All-Air Force in 2006.
He was one of nearly 40 players, many with similar credentials, who traveled from locations as diverse as Taiwan, Germany, Azores and Italy to play in the event. Lafon played for American Legion of Okinawa here.
Competition and camaraderie, most say, are the big lures.
"You make the best of friends and you play the best ball in the world against the best military players in the world," said Danny Acosta of Osan Air Base, who in 2003 traveled from Uzbekistan to Korea via Texas in six days to play here. "You can’t duplicate this in the States."
"It brings the All-Armed Forces together," said nine-time All-Air Force outfielder Karrie Warren of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Lafon and four-time All-Navy player Will Read traveled the farthest this year, Read from Sigonella, Sicily, to also play for Legion.
"You get to see the other side of the softball world you never see," Read said. "It’s worth it. I’m definitely coming back next year."
Warren for the second year played for the Lady Guzzlers, a veritable "Who’s Who of All-Air Force Softball." The team’s 12 players hold a combined 23 All-Air Force and 17 All-Armed Forces selections.