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MCCC Players Forge Bond with Little League Hosts at World Series

6/12/17


Upon their arrival in Enid, the Vikings were greeted by the Chisholm Longhorn Little League team. It was the start of a great friendship.

Halfway across the country, the Vikings had no shortage of enthusiastic fans.

Jordan Gonzalez and the rest of the Vikings sign the baseball for Aebi.

Mercer infielder AJ Arias and Little League player Caiden Aebi.

On their off day, the Vikings cheered on the Longhorns at their Little League game, with two Vikings players, Anthony Boselli and Gabe Castillo, serving as first and third base coaches during the game.

West Windsor, N.J. -- Reaching the National Championship game at the NJCAA World Series in Enid, Okla., was certainly the highlight of the season for the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) baseball team.

But there were other moments -- more about the people than about baseball scores and statistics -- that captured the sportsmanship and kindness of the 2017 Vikings team and the welcoming fans they met in Enid who added so much to their unforgettable World Series experience.

Upon arrival at the tournament, each of the ten college teams was paired with one of Enid’s Little League teams, who served as their hosts throughout the tournament.The Vikings were paired with the Chisholm Longhorns.

“The bond that began to form between our guys and these enthusiastic kids and their parents was almost immediate,” said MCCC Head Coach Kevin Kerins. “While baseball is always the main focus, our players gained so much as they became mentors and leaders in the eyes of these youngsters. The Longhorns became our greatest fans.”

Take the Vikings’ game against Lansing on May 29, its second of the series. In the very first inning, with MCCC pitcher Andrew DiPiazza on the mound, a Lansing player hit a hard foul ball into the stands behind the Mercer dugout that hit Caiden Aebi, one of youngsters on the Chisholm Longhorns. The game was stopped for over a minute as DiPiazza first glanced and then walked towards the dugout with obvious concern. Once it became clear that the injured boy was okay, DiPiazza headed back to the mound to continue the game, which Mercer went on to win 9-7.

DiPiazza ‘s caring gesture did not go unnoticed. Caiden’s mom, Carli Aebi, was so moved that she posted a video on Facebook capturing DiPiazza’s reaction. The video garnered more than 1,500 views, with comments to the post ranging from “awesome for their pitcher to stop the game and that was very respectful of the team” to “much respect to the pitcher…great group of guys.” Another noted the bond that forms between the college teams and their hosts: “Just proof the host teams make an impression on the college teams. Cool moment for sure. This tournament is awesome.”

The story did not end there. The parents of MCCC player Jordan Gonzalez, who were in the stands that day, took the foul ball and had all of Mercer’s players sign it for Caiden. When asked who his favorite player was, Caiden said it was Mercer’s AJ Arias, who wears #12 just like Aebi. They arranged for Arias to present the ball to the boy after the Vikings’ next World Series game two days later. This story made it into the Enid News, complete with a photo of Aebi and Arias.

The connection between the Vikings and their Little League hosts continued to grow. On their day off, the Vikings attended one of the Longhorns’ games, with two Mercer players, Anthony Boselli and Gabe Castillo, serving as first and third base coaches respectively. Assistant MCCC Baseball Coach Fred Carella noted how much fun it was for everyone. “Gabe was so into it. He was jumping up and down when players got hits, putting out his hands to tell them to stop, giving them high fives. The kids loved it. It was great to watch,” Carella said.

So strong was the bond that when the Vikings advanced to the World Series final, the Longhorns forfeited their own game scheduled for that night so that they could be in the stands to root for their Vikings.

“The support and enthusiasm we received from the people of Enid was truly remarkable,” Coach Kerins said. “Fans, big and small, showed up to the championship game with their faces painted in green and gold, some wearing Viking helmets to show their support.”

While their loss in the title game was a major disappointment for the Vikings, they took away a lot from their eight days at the World Series, including wonderful memories of some very special kids in Enid, Okla.

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