In 1979, when the Pittsburgh Pirates rolled to a World Series title, the team's solidarity was summed up by its theme song "We Are Family."
Sister Sledge probably doesn't ring a bell with the 12-year-old players on the Columbia County Lookouts travel baseball team, but the Lookouts have struck a similar chord this summer.
Like the Pirates, the Lookouts have earned a World Series berth as a family.
"This is a close-knit group," coach Heath Fisher said of the Lookouts, who will compete in the International Baseball Championship World Series in Clearwater, Fla. this month.
"This team has been together since they were 9, and they've done well with travel ball," Fisher said. "The big accomplishment is staying together."
The Lookouts are currently in their fourth season, and Fisher said the team's initial goal was to prepare the players for middle school baseball.
"All 11 of them made their middle school baseball team as sixth graders," Fisher says. "Once they did that, they asked 'What do we do now?' We sat back, re-evaluated - and that's why we're going to the World Series."
During their trip to the Sunshine State, the Lookouts will have a chance to see the sights, and may make time to attend a Tampa Devil Rays baseball game or trek to Busch Gardens.
Columbia County Lookout player Ryan Cato practices fielding a ball.
Photo by Annette M. Drowlette
"Our main objective will be baseball, but if we can fit some team things in, we will," Fisher said. "Every time we hit the road, we plan to win. We think our chances are real good."
The World Series will be played July 13-20. The Lookouts will be among 32 teams in the 12-and-under age group battling for the title. The event opens with three games of pool play, which sets seedings, then continues with a double-elimination format.
While the Lookouts look to cash in on the diamond, the players already have been raising funds to pay for the trip.
"We had a little talk about the commitment and dedication it would take to play in the World Series, and all the boys said, 'We're ready.' They work as hard as they can, and they're doing it because they want to," Fisher said.
A perfect example of that dedication is the actions of team member Andrew Foushee. His family had scheduled a vacation, but Andrew refused to go - instead, he stayed home and went to two-a-day workouts with the Lookouts.
The Lookouts began practice in January, and opened tournament play in March. The team takes a 20-4-1 record to the World Series, and has won several events during the travel-ball season.
Coach Fisher says pitching and defense are the team's bread and butter. The Lookouts primarily use a four-man pitching rotation of Patrick McGowan, Shane Nelson, Andrew Foushee and Cody McElhaney, but Fisher says every player on the team can pitch when needed.
Other team members include Wesley Morris, John Paul Richardson, Ryan Cato, Derek Herbine, Eric Voldness, Harrison Fisher and Mitchell Knox.
Versatility is an asset, but Fisher thinks success comes down to attitude.
"We have good players, but they have a bond," he said. "If one of them is in a slump, the others are real supportive. A lot of local kids want to join the team, not because we win, but because our players treat everyone with respect. They behave in a nice manner, like Christian young men."
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