DEREK BRIGHTWELL The Southern
Starting July 29, Rent One Park will play host to the Colt World Series for 16U teams, featuring teams from across the country, four international teams and two teams representing Southern Illinois — one named Southern Illinois and one named after the host city, Marion.
Nashville native Matt Harre took over Team Marion this year and has a long history with Colt League baseball and has coached at the collegiate level as well as coaching his son Jack throughout several levels of youth ball. His history with the sport, the players in Southern Illinois and Colt League baseball all combined for a perfect storm for him taking the reins of the program.
“It seemed like a great opportunity and knowing a lot of the young players who are 16U eligible in Southern Illinois, it seemed like a great fit,” he said.
Harre won’t get a chance to see his squad — which is made up of players from 10 area schools — in action against another squad until Monday when they take on Germany in a scrimmage. They’ll get to play Germany again on Wednesday — with the European team taking on Team Southern Illinois on Tuesday — before the tournament begins.
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Those scrimmages will be a great opportunity for the coaches to see how their players fit together and crafting a winning formula.
“Lineup construction will be huge — understanding who can play where. When the folks of Southern Illinois watch us play, they’ll see a really athletic group of kids who all played a ton of baseball throughout the year,” Harre said. “They all play on some type of club team at a significant level, so I’ve got the utmost confidence in their ability to play the game. My job is going to be putting the pieces in the right place to get the best desired outcome for the team and ultimately the success of everyone involved.”
Even without having seen them in game action, though, Harre knows he’s got some talent and athleticism on his squad.
“I’ve got some kids up the middle who do a nice job defensively of controlling the running game. We work on run-control defense — worked on it the other night for 25-30 minutes. We’re really athletic and I’ve got a nice mix of some younger guys who will be eligible to play next year as well as some older guys like our shortstop Cruz Harlan who’s a kid who played last year,” Harre said. “He played second base last year and will play a lot of shortstop for me this year. He’s athletic and has a lot of pop in his bat and runs well. He’s a switch hitter and is a really nice player. Drake Moss also returns from last year. It’s good to have some of those guys with experience.”
Those returning players will be especially crucial for this team as players from so many different squads join to play together. Having leadership and experience, Harre explained, will help when the games get started.
“Leadership is a huge part of any team sport and isn’t always clearly defined. Sometimes you’ll have those vocal leaders and those guys who are quiet and lead just by doing their work. When you can find that rare combination of a guy who everybody knows is the best player on the team and they look to and then he wants to assume that role as a leader, that’s the perfect storm,” he said. “I think we have a great group of young men who are one, really good players and two, really selfless.”
Harre said that, first and foremost, his team will “represent Marion with the utmost respect and will play super hard.” With teams from Germany, Mexico and international baseball powerhouses Japan and the Dominican Republic coming to Marion, he knows his team will have its work cut out for it to defend Rent One Park.
“We know we’re going to be playing against some really good teams. We can’t define ourselves and our success with a win or loss — but we talk about catching, throwing, hitting, mentally being prepared and then being more aggressive than our opponent. That’s five things we talk about religiously. So if we’re successful in that and are good people, then we’ll have success,” he said. “I’m very confident that the people from Marion and Southern Illinois will be very proud of us.”
The Colt World Series festivities start Thursday, July 28 with a skills competition, home run derby and speed competition. Games begin on Friday with Team Southern Illinois taking on the West Zone team at 8 pm Team Marion will play on Saturday at 8 pm The championship game will be at 7 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 2.