HARWICH – Talk to the players on Monomoy Little League's 12-year-old All-Star team about what makes their team so awesome and you'll quickly pick up on a common theme: Along with hard work, what has made their 2019 season one of storied success is the bonds between players.
“We all work together and are all a close group of friends at school and especially on the baseball field,” said Marek Krystofolski, one of the team's pitchers. “We trusted each other. Some teams won't trust each other. We knew that if the ball went in the outfield, someone would get it in.”
That trust has led this group of All Stars to a truly stellar season that included winning three out of four of their final tournaments, the biggest win coming in their final championship game against Dartmouth on their home field, Centeio-Baldwin in Harwich.
“We came out in the first inning and I think we got 10 or 11 hits in a row,” said head coach Jay Krystofolski. “We went through our lineup. Then there was a grand slam in the mix.”
By the time the inning ended, Monomoy was up something like 8-0, basically putting the game away before it had truly begun.
“That's something I've never seen them do in all the years, in all the wins we've had,” said Krystofolski. “That was just incredible. I probably won't forget that one for a while, especially being on our field, home tournament, championship game, against a big town.”
Krystofolski has been head coach of this particular group of players since they were 9 years old and has enjoyed watching them mature on and off the field through the years, capping off their Little League careers in stellar fashion with the aforementioned victory.
Among the team's successes were four no-hitters, and one perfect game within those no-hitters. They ended up triumphing against Dartmouth 12-0.
“The season's been great,” said Krystofolski, who said the team's history as teammates and friends has helped cement their bond. “I've had most of these kids four years. They know each other. They play well together, and I think that makes a difference. They've been playing with each other for so long, from the Little League to the All Stars. We also have really good pitching.”
Leading the fray have been Marek Krystofolski, Finn Hyora, Jackson Rocco, and Chace Robbins, each of whom also plays other positions as needed. Krystofolski said his team's longevity is a factor in their success.
“It definitely helps,” he said. “Because they're familiar with each other and comfortable with each other they know how each other plays out on the field. They've built good friendships over the years through other sports, and it shows out here. We've got a really excellent group of baseball players with this age group.”
“Everyone knows each other and has a good bond with each other,” said Finn Hyora. “It's a fun team to play with.”
Like his teammates, Hyora said he'll long remember defeating Dartmouth in the championship game at home.
“I think it was cool winning three out of our four final tournaments, and winning our last game on this field,” he said. “This is our home field and we've played here for so long, it was cool to win our final championship here.”
The All-Stars are a tryout team comprised of selected players from the regular Little League season. Krystofolski said this season more than 25 kids tried out for the 11 spots on the All-Star team.
“That's a lot of kids,” said Krystofolski. “Everybody wants to be on this team. It was really hard to pick just 11.”
The head coach, who is joined along the baselines by assistant coach Mick Huse, said he appreciates working with this age group because of their openness to being taught, and their dedication to hard work.
“Starting when they were 9, I got to know them and build that friendship,” he said. “They trust you and believe in you, and do what you ask them to do and go out there and perform.”
He also appreciates the support of the parents and tireless efforts of Huse.
“He's a big part of this team. He does the book. He does a lot of the stuff nobody sees. He's here late hours, and I really appreciate what he's done,” said Krystofolski. “And the parents. Getting the kids here on time, putting up with us, and trusting us. They've always left us alone. We've never had any complaints. They've always trusted us.”
Baseball, Krystofolski said, instills important life lessons in its players.
“I grew up with it and learned a lot of my life lessons through it and the coaches that I had, and when I was done playing I vowed to pass on what I had learned to the next generation, my kids and the kids around my kids,” he said.
That has included some of his son's closest friends, most of whom are on the All-Star team. While most are boys, there's one player that stands out. Lilly Furman said baseball is a sport that runs in her family, and that she developed an enthusiasm for it from her mother. She said her experiences with Monomoy Little League and the All-Stars has inspired her to sharpen her skills in the hopes of earning a spot on Monomoy's varsity squad in the future, ideally with the same players.
“I really like how hard we work,” Furman said. “We just mix well together as a team.”
“We've known each other for a really long time,” added Casey Huse. “We have experience with how people play certain positions.”
It also helps, as right fielder/first baseman Xavier Doyle said, when the pitchers pitch well and the hitters “come up clutch.”
For their head coach, the biggest hope is that the players will continue playing and then consider coaching, preserving the legacy that is baseball.
“It needs to be passed on because it's dying,” Krystofolski said. “There's not a lot of kids playing anymore. They're playing other sports or they're bored with it. That's what's great about this group because they love it and are going to stick with it and play right on through high school.”
Krystofolski also hopes they hang on to a little gratitude for their own efforts and the efforts of those that helped them accomplish so much.
“I hope they appreciate the hard work that they put in, and that the coaches and parents have put in, because it can go away in the blink of an eye,” he said. “It's really hard to win, especially when it's two little towns playing against bigger towns. We focus on 'you put the hard work in and you can achieve anything you want. No matter where you live, no matter what you're doing, it always pays off.'”
And then there's the best part, according to Marek: fun.
“It's fun. There's a lot of moving parts to it,” he said. “It's not really boring if you're playing it right.”