Ask any 12-year-old baseball player what the key question is this summer, and they’ll reply, “Are you going to Cooperstown?”
Malverne resident Tom Porr has been busy working to make that Cooperstown dream come true for his team, the South Shore Rebels. The squad, made up of 12 talented 12-year-old boys from Malverne and the surrounding areas, was set to play in the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame Invitational Tournament in Cooperstown, which began last Saturday and concludes on Friday.
Porr has coached the Rebels for the past 15 years. “I started doing this 15 years ago with my son, who’s now 27,” he said.
In the week-long invitational, which involves more than 1,000 kids and more than 100 teams, each team plays six games, which are followed by playoffs. Last year we came in 14th out of 104 teams,” Porr said proudly.
There are also skills-focused competitions, including Around the Horn, in which the ball is thrown to all positions on the field. The Rebels finished second in that event last year, with a time of 23.15 seconds. In practice this year they have been as fast as 22 seconds. “We came in second two years in a row,” said Porr. “We’re looking to do it again — or better.”
The Rebels’ board of directors, which includes Porr, scout for recruits for the team each year by watching Little League games in Malverne, Franklin Square, Lynbrook, Valley Stream and other areas. They select the best players based on their stats. “We don’t even know their names until after we’ve evaluated them,” Porr said. Then, during a three-day tryout, board members select the best players, and discuss the details of the tournament with their parents.
“These kids are living the dream,” said Porr. “They play in Cooperstown and meet celebrities. Roger Clemens was up there [last year] and signed everyone’s baseball cap,” he added.
This week there was a good chance that the players would get to meet former Yankees Manager Joe Torre, who is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, but was scheduled to arrive in Cooperstown on Wednesday.
Aside from the excitement of playing at the Hall of Fame, Cooperstown Dream Park is a beautiful complex, Porr said. “There are 24 ball fields, mountains in the background, and red clay to play on,” Porr said. “It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
Since 1999, Porr has taken some 200 players to the tournament. “I tell each of the guys to win one game and get one hit,” he said. “We try not to put any pressure on the kids.”