Written by: Kenneth Kraus
Client: Wellington National Golf Club
Release Date: 2016-08-04
The Wellington Colts Little League baseball team is about to embark on their second national championship journey in two years. Last year, the Colts won the District tournament, the Sectional tournament and then the State Championship. That was only the beginning of what proved to be a hugely successful trip that ended with the Colts steamrolling their way through the Southeast Regionals and after that, the overall title by beating the team from Seoul, South Korea, in the World Series Championship game.
And in what everybody hopes will be an instant replay of last year’s successful trip, the Colts are on their way to Greenville, South Carolina to face their first test in the Regional finals.
“We have a group of boys that have been playing together for about eight years and then the boys were able to compete at a high level again this year,” said Chad Mills, who along with Peter Bruno manages the squad. “They competed in the district tournament inside the county and won that and went to the sectional tournament which is several local counties, and they won that one as well. From there, it was on to the state tournament, which we won and now we are advancing to the regional tournament,” he explained.
The Colts are headed to the difficult Southeast regional which includes seven states. Should they win there this week, they would have an opportunity to go to the Little League World Series for the 14-year-old boy’s group.
While the Little League program has always been one of the most popular, family oriented sports across the country, it’s not an inexpensive endeavor. Everything is self funded. Colts Travel Baseball Inc. is the official provider for travel baseball for the City of Wellington. They are a 100% volunteer operated, equal opportunity, non-profit public charity under 501 (c) (3). The program provides Wellington youth an environment to learn, practice, contribute, and be rewarded in competitive baseball at the highest levels. They emphasize player education and development rather than winning. They value family involvement and volunteer commitment, focus on players’ mental and physical development, peer collaboration, work ethic, and respect for coaches, officials, opponents, and rules of the game. Their popular program has grown from three teams to nine in four years and they are currently hosting approximately 110 children, ages 7 to 14, almost all of whom are Wellington residents.
Thursday, at the Wellington National Golf and Equestrian Club (WNGEC), the team got a huge boost from the new owners, Chip Smith and Doug Marty. In a ceremony overlooking the gorgeous fairway, the Wellington Colts were presented with a $2,500 check to help defray the many expenses involved in such a trip.
“We were talking to somebody a few days ago that said this team had gone on to the national championship last year and it came up that they were doing a little fundraiser thing,” explained Doug Marty. “And we heard the stories about a lot of parents, a lot of families that can’t afford to go watch them play, so we got together and decided that we were going to put up the money to help some of the families go that otherwise couldn’t make the journey.”
“It helps. Every little bit helps and this is a lot more than a little bit,” laughed coach Peter Bruno. “We don’t have the ability to plan for this in advance, so for a last minute donation of this size it is very, very helpful.”
And the support of the community is also very important to the team. “The Little League experience is very different because you don’t pay to play in the tournament, said Mills. “You continue to win and move up, so that makes it that much more exciting. The more you win, the more the community gets behind the team because we’re all Wellington residents. So, last year as we rallied, they were having watch parties at Lindburgers and Buffalo Wild Wings and getting 500 people out to watch our games on TV!”
So what do the coaches expect out of this year’s team? Are they the favorites to repeat? “I wouldn’t say we’re ever the favorites, no,” smiled Bruno. “We’re a very talented team, yet I don’t know that you ever expect to win the state tournaments, or the southeast region, or the U.S. championship. I don’t know if anyone expects that. After all, there are probably about 2500 teams, just in terms of math, that we had to compete against to get through the different brackets.”
Mills continued, “It’s interesting because last year we did not know what to expect. It was just kind of weekend to weekend. Like, ‘hey we won this weekend, great, we play again next weekend.’ Now it’s a little bit different because they boys have some expectations of themselves and the community around them has some expectations for them to be competitive and possibly even go all the way again. We blew through the Sectionals at Melbourne last year. I think we outscored our opponents something like fifty something to two. And then we went to the Southeast Region. We lost our first game. And then battled through the loser’s bracket to win six straight in the Southeast Region. eating teams like Georgia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.”
After last year’s success, is there a worry this year about over-confidence?
“No, I think that they are confident in their teammates and they’re confident with each other and they’ve certainly been in scenarios where they’ve faced a lot of adversity and they managed to dig deep and rise up,” said Mills. “That said, they’re young men. They’re not impervious to failing and in baseball on any given day, anybody can prevail, so…..”
Asked if Wellington National Golf and Equestrian Club owners Smith and Marty will make the trip, Smith said, “No, we’ve got our hands full here. We’re trying to open on the 11th of August. We have 9 days left to get everything working. We’re working seven days a week, sunrise to sunset every day here. While we might not be there, we’re behind the Wellington Colts 100% and we want to see them bring back the National Championship to Wellington.”
“In my 25+ years of golf course development experience, I have never been so excited about a project as this one,” Smith explained. “Not only are the golf course and facilities amazing, I have fallen in love with Wellington and the people here.”
Wellington National will offer full service catering that provides innovative and delicious cuisine, headed by Aaron Menitoff and Julie Larson. The newly renovated open architectural design is perfect for hosting large charity fundraisers, weddings and events, as well as serving the country club members daily. The highly anticipated wine bar will be open in early September.
With an all-star team of experts, including Julie Pickens, previously of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, The Breakers Palm Beach and Morton’s Steak House, the Wellington National Golf and Equestrian Club will become the go-to venue of Wellington and Palm Beach County.