The 10-year-olds of the Fusion Baseball team know how to play ball.
After just one season, the team finished first in its division after winning the championship game of the Western Suburban Baseball League last month.
“Our season exceeded our expectations,” said Jim Heavey, the team’s coach. “The kids learned a lot. They gained the experience of higher-level baseball while getting a taste of victory, as well.”
Heavey formed the team with assistant coaches Mike Blaum and Gary Garland in 2010, after having the idea of putting together a youth travel baseball team. They approached families and members of other teams in the area, generating interest and recruiting players.
According to Heavey, the team aimed to help families who could not afford regular travel teams. Fusion Baseball was not-for-profit and offset costs for parents through corporate sponsors and donations from businesses in the area. More important, Heavey and the other coaches focused on building the fundamental skills of the players.
“The philosophy of practice was just to help the kids understand the situations that they may have never seen before,” Heavey said. “The idea behind Fusion is togetherness, to build, to form one…I approached kids that I thought were coachable, were fundamentally able to improve, who had a desire to play, who presented the definition of fusion.”
The children learned skills from the coaches and improved their batting when a batting coach, Mike Huber, was brought in by Heavey. As they improved, the team saw more wins and won four straight games in the championship tournament.
One of the players, Nick Sostak, said he improved “a ton” from playing with the Fusion team.
“I thought the team was very good,” he said. “It was our first year and after this year we were all really good.”
Sostak recalled his proudest moment this season during the championship game against the Winfield Wolves, when he hit a two-run homer over the fence, allowing the Fusion team to break a tie and take the game with a final score of 7-6.
Heavey also called the championship game his favorite from the season. In fact, Fusion had played the Wolves earlier and lost. But when they met them again during the championship, the undefeated Wolves had more pressure to win. To Heavey, that made the difference.
“The pressure was all on them,” said Heavey. “But the most memorable part of that game was afterward, when there was a pile of 10-year-olds at home plate because they had all run in and dived on each other. It was just a really touching thing.”
The Fusion team ended the season with a 19-3 record, making their mark as a successful and powerful youth travel baseball team.
But while the players have developed and honed their skills this season, the parents have watched their children grow from the sidelines. Sostak’s father, Steve, also recalled his son’s championship game-winning run, and praised Heavey’s efforts.
“Coach Heavey has done a great job in training the boys and having them excel in their roles,” he said. “I just think that their coaching staff has done a great job.”
Already, the Fusion team is preparing for the next season of travel baseball. Tryouts will be held July 31 at and Heavey is looking to attract new, interested players.
With a winning season under their belt, the players of Fusion baseball can look forward to more success next season. Heavey is ready to coach those who want to join.
“It’s a way to give back,” he said. “There’s nothing better than coaching and being able to show the kids that they’re able to do it and not just tell them to do it.
"To me, it’s rewarding because I’ve played sports all my life.”