ITEM PHOTO BY KATIE MORRISON
Navigators intern Georgy Shukaylo, right, shows Lynn 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Star Zach Elwell the ropes as they sell 50/50 raffle tickets at the Navs game Thursday.
By HAROLD RIVERA
The World Series-bound Lynn 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars are less than a week away from a boarding a flight to Williston, North Dakota, where they’ll match up against some of the best teams from around the country with a chance to bring home a championship. The last time a Lynn Babe Ruth team made it this far was in 1983, way before any of the current players on the team were even born. With everything this group has achieved, it’s fair to say that when it comes to sports, the All-Stars are now the talk of the town.
The team made an appearance prior to the start of yesterday night’s Navigators game at Fraser Field. They were introduced to the crowd individually and collected a round of applause at the public address announcer spoke of their trip to the World Series.
Aside from leaving a positive impression on the fans, the All-Stars also caught attention from some of the Navigators as well.
Catcher Keith Linnane, who went to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division 3 World Series this past season as a member of the Northern Essex Community College baseball team, related to the journey the All-Stars have taken this summer to get this far.
“It was a great experience overall,” Linnane said. “It was an awesome time. It was great competition and it was a lot of fun winning. Unfortunately we came up short in the championship game but it was a great experience.”
Linnane also offered advice to the young sluggers and said that self-belief can go a long way on the diamond.
“You just have to play hard every game,” Linnane said. “They’re going to be facing some great competition. Playing hard, staying humble and believing in themselves and that they can do it. Why not them? That’s what our mentality was, why not us?”
Centerfielder Colby Maiola, one of Linnane’s teammates on the Northern Essex team, shared similar thoughts about his experiences playing in a World Series. Maiola said team chemistry played a big role in the success Northern Essex had this past season.
“The team chemistry we had going out there was one of the things I’ll remember the most,” Maiola said. “We didn’t have a big team. We had 18, 19 guys so everyone was really close. Just that team chemistry is what really helped us go as far as we did those years.”
Maiola added that he was also appreciative of having the opportunity to match up against some of the top talent from across the country, like the All-Stars will next week.
“It was something that none of us had gotten the chance to do yet,” Maiola said. “It was a really cool experience getting a chance to play against guys from across the country with different backgrounds.”
The centerfielder also offered advice to the Babe Ruth team. He said sticking to habits and routines will prevent things from going wrong.
“Don’t change a thing,” Maiola shared. “Stick with what got them here. Make sure not to press too hard because as soon as they make it about anything other than baseball and stop having fun, that’s when things can go wrong.”
Shortstop Jordan Roper was also on the Northern Essex team this past season. Roper echoed Linnane’s feelings about the importance of team confidence and self-belief.
“There was a huge jump in competition,” Roper said, “but we believed in ourselves the entire time. We knew who we were and that was the most important thing.”
Roper, a Lynnfield native, added, “I can honestly say that I’ve never been a part of something that special in my entire baseball career. The guys that I was with, that’s something that I’m going to hold close to me for the rest of my life.”
Navigators manager John Zizzo also offered advice to the All-Stars as they count down the days until they set off for North Dakota.
“I think the key thing for young kids like that going to something there is to stay focused,” Zizzo said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience but it’s also an opportunity to win and do something special for your community.”
The Navigators also organized a 50-50 raffle to support the All-Stars in their efforts to fundraise for the upcoming trip. Fans were able buy raffle tickets for the drawing, with half of the total going to the All-Stars, as players from the Babe Ruth team collected donations and handed out raffle tickets.