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Daniel Ayers, a Columbus North lefty who is headed to Western Michigan on a baseball scholarship, was asked to evaluate his experience with the Under 18 Indiana Redbirds.
“This has helped to lead me to where I want to be in life,” said Ayers, who begins his senior year at North on Aug. 6.
Sitting nearby, Redbirds coaches Tony Benefiel and Trevor Baty smiled with pride.
It was their hope that starting an Independent Pastime Tournament team would accomplish such a task, helping Columbus-area baseball players to gain experience and exposure during the summer.
“Of our players who have graduated from high school, 22 of 25 have played college baseball,” Baty said.
Now in their third season, the Redbirds have qualified for the first time for the Pastime World Series, which will be held Thursday through Aug. 5 on the campuses of Kent State and Akron universities. The Redbirds have put together a 31-9-2 record this summer, and they went 7-0 in a Pastime World Series qualifier on June 7-10 at Butler University in Indianapolis.
“This is the best team competitively that we have had,” said Benefiel, who founded the team in 2010 as a resurrection of a team his father, Rick Benefiel, and his uncle, Jeff Benefiel, ran in the mid-1990s.
They have managed to put together a successful team on a shoestring budget.
“When we started this team, we didn’t want to charge the players a lot,” said Baty, who is the pitching coach at North. “We wanted to keep the costs down because times are tough.”
For the three seasons, Benefiel and Baty have kept the costs to about a third of what many teams charge for summer participation. Players such as Ayers and 2012 North graduate Braden Pelley, who is headed to Franklin College to play baseball, said that the two summer coaches have made invaluable contributions to their lives. “It’s huge what these two guys have done for us,” Ayers said. “They have been my biggest role models in baseball. And these last three years, I’ve traveled the Midwest.”
Pelley agreed that his two coaches seem to have unlimited energy to pass along to the players. “They’ve always been a big help to me,” he said.
Benefiel and Baty said they finally have had to ask the community for some help. “The motel and gas costs going to Ohio will cost between $10,000 and $12,000,” Baty said. “We’ve been out there in the community and we’ve talked to businesses. They have really helped.
“We just want people to know that $500 would go a long ways.”
Along with Pelley and Ayers, other local members of the Redbirds are North graduate Parker Shelton, North graduate Preston Shelton, North graduate C.J. Dennis, East’s Christian Wichman, East graduate Kellen Otto, East’s Dakota Glenn, North graduate Mickey Bell and North graduate Adam Jones.
Anyone who would like to support the team can call Benefiel at (765) 610-1744 or Baty at (812) 344-3385.
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