HERITAGE HARBOR — Tyson Meyer stepped into the confines of the batter’s box, all the while trying to fight off the feelings of trepidation slowing coursing through his body.
The 10-year-old shortstop dug his foot into the red dirt, adjusted his grip on his bat and looked squarely toward the mound.
Meyer took a step back, and rather than waiting on the pitcher — one who had dominated much of the 10U River Dawgs’ lineup — to decide the outcome, Meyer took charge of the situation. He swung early and connected for a double.
The double was the beginning of a rally that helped propel the faith-based River Dawgs team to victory against Florida Battalion in the championship game of the Tampa Bay Classic Tournament March 8 and March 9.
“It was fun,” Meyer says. “It felt good to be able to step up against a really good pitcher.”
After seeing some of their top hitters initially struggle at the plate, Meyer and his teammates turned to what they could control — their belief in themselves.
Recalling their weekly Bible lesson in which David defeated Goliath with five rocks and a slingshot, the River Dawgs put themselves in David’s shoes as they prepared to face one of the nation’s top pitchers — who just so happened to be a year older and significantly taller.
“You can beat them if you believe in it,” 10-year-old third baseman Tyler Colditz says. “I just tried to time the pitcher in my mind, and I kept telling myself, ‘I can do this.’”
The River Dawgs returned to action this weekend, posting a 4-0 record en route to winning the fifth annual spring Braden River Wreaking HAVOC Championship March 22 and March 23. The team outscored its opponents 39-3 to win its second tournament of the spring.
“We’ve been blessed,” coach John Goda says. “There are a lot of really good teams out there. We try to teach the boys it’s all about the process, not about the result. Good process produces good results.
“We’re not focused on the outcome,” Goda says. “We practice and play with integrity, and we believe we’re playing for the right reasons. God calls us not to be good but to be excellent, and we’re really trying to build championship human beings.”
With the win, the River Dawgs are now ranked No. 19 in the U.S. Specialty Sports Association National Baseball Boys 10U rankings. The team, which is one of only five Florida teams ranked in the top 20, was ranked No. 12 following the Tampa Bay Classic Tournament earlier this month.
But, for the players, it’s not simply about the rankings; it’s about building friendships, having fun and playing for something much larger than themselves.
“We really play to honor God. It’s not all about winning,” 10-year-old catcher Carson Goda says. “We don’t really get all that tense. We just play to the best of our abilities.”
“If we lose, we honor God, and if we win, we honor God,” Colditz says. “And if we lose, we lose with class.”
The River Dawgs practice once a week and try to compete in a tournament at least every other weekend. In addition, the players participate in weekly Bible lessons, which they often look back on when they find themselves in tough situations.
“It feels good knowing you didn’t just cheat on it,” Carson Goda says. “It wasn’t luck. It took skill to do it.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].