They call themselves Sandlot for a reason and it’s not to puff up their chests and brag about being elite.
Instead, it’s because this team is down to the red clay earth, a group of Franklin County boys who have grown up together, swung their bats together and played together.
They’re not like the All-Star squads of bigger cities, that draw from scores of applicants to pick out the best dozen they can field.
No, this team is group of Apalachicola and Eastpoint young men who are the diamond in the Franklin County rough, with a few Gulf County players who have been grafted into the fold.
“They have a friendship that will last forever. They do everything together,” said coach Lloyd Alford, who oversees the squad with assistance from Jimmy Granger, Zac Alday, John Brewer and Tyler Poloronis, and of course the wives and girlfriends who fill in all the blanks.
In 2017 Sandlot won its first Dixie Youth League state title when they were playing AA ball, downing Port St. Joe in Sebring for the championship.
In 2018 they became a travel ball club, and a pair of twin brothers from Wewahitchka, #4 Ja’Corey Williams and #14 Terrell Williams joined the team, which also includes of #6 Rylan Wood, #99 Eli Harris, #27 Nolan Alford, #1 Sadiq Jones, #7 Kayden Drake. #12 Jeremiah Allen, #10 Karcen Poloronis, $23 Dre’Kylan North, and the latest addition, a Port St. Joe sixth grader, #9 Colton “Cash” Brewer, moved here from New Mexico.
Now, playing in the age 12-13 age group, the boys practice three days a week, and play tournaments from March through October, taking a break in August. They travel as far away as Dothan and Pensacola, or as near as Panama City Beach, to wherever the competition is fiercest.
But this August, there will be no rest, because on July 29 they are headed to a prestigious nationwide tournament in Cooperstown, New York for a week of playing some of the finest teams in the entire United States.
Alford knows Sandlot will have their work cut out for them, but after years of winning enough championship rings to fill a hand or two by playing in the Travel Ball USA, GSSA and Perfect Game systems, he’s confident they’ll prove their mettle.
In June in Daphne, Alabama they came back with a GSSA World Series ring, culminating a six-game win streak with a 9-5 win over the top-seeded Alabama Prodigy.
And last weekend they won another one in Moultrie, Georgia, giving them a boost they needed to propel them on the plane ride to Albany, New York and a chance to play in the shadow of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s an expensive opportunity, and while they have some big donors, they’re hoping to raise more this week as people donate to them through their Sandlot Squad Facebook page to assist with expenses at the 12-under Cooperstown World Series.
All games played can be viewed live on YouTube.
“We don’t stay in the room and eat pizza,” said Alford, an Air Force veteran who has a strict requirement they must keep up their grades or risk being benched.
“We stress the whole person concept,” he said. “That they’re getting to do something other kids dream of.”