By Craig Marx, Editor
Baseball got its start in historic Cooperstown, New York. Recently, two young men from the Antigo area had a the opportunity of a lifetime as Caden Kautza and Reed Kuenzli were able to add to the legendary sports venue’s history by playing for the Wisconsin All-Stars (WAS) baseball team earlier this month.
Caden, 13 years old, and Reed, 12, were selected to play for the WAS team during a two-day long tryout session held in Oshkosh. After nervously waiting to receive the selection email, the two boys would eventually join the storied ranks of one of the state’s premier youth ball clubs.
Practicing twice a week in Oshkosh over the course of the summer, the two all stars also helped fund their own trips to Cooperstown to play against some of the best teams in the country in the Cooperstown Dreams Park summer tournament. Caden and Reed spent the interim time leading up to the tourney selling concessions at Saratoga Park while also seeking and receiving the support of several Antigo area businesses.
Under the tutelage of Coach Brian Burgert, the two aspiring all stars arrived in upstate New York a few days before the tournament’s opening ceremonies. Spending time in Syracuse, the two families eventually rented houses near the Cooperstown baseball complex, itself a massive venue of 22 ball diamonds featuring games from sun up to late night. With over 100 teams competing from all over the United States, Caden and Reed soon represented Wisconsin as a baseball powerhouse.
Following the opening ceremony honoring long time coach Lou Presutti, games got underway on Sunday, August 13th. Beginning with a round robin style of play to determine later seeding, the boys began their tournament run against the City Baseball team of Washington, opening the floodgates with a 26-3 win. Over the course of their next five games, the 12-man WAS team would go on to outscore their competition 62-10, securing Caden and Reed’s team a No. 1 seed in the upcoming elimination round.
The Wisconsin All Stars faced off against the Tustin Scorpions of California, stinging the competition back with another dominant win, this time 14-0. Moving into the “Sweet 16” round of play, the boys and their team met tough competition from Virginia in the Restin Warriors. Despite a 9-0 loss and elimination from the tournament, the dominant WAS team had everything to be proud of during the experience, taking ninth out of 104 teams present at Cooperstown.
Caden and Reed both demonstrated and embodied all that the Cooperstown classics are meant to showcase, including respect and camaraderie as well top-tier baseball. The boys stayed with the team in on-sight barracks, where respect for other teams and the player’s uniforms themselves was strictly enforced. Encouraging sportsmanship and helping the players take in the national scope of the event, Caden and Reed took part in the time-honored tradition of pin trading. The boys arrived at Cooperstown with 50 pins apiece, and each young man doubled that in an effort to fill their pin books.
The boys also received rings and name-engraved bats for their participation in the tournament, where they now stand amongst baseball’s legends as inductees of the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame.