Leadership of young men could be difference in Waco

Its not often that a coach listens to his players and takes actions based on those conversations or opinions. White Hall Little League coach Sheldon Pratt is one of those guys.

Prior to White Hall taking off for Waco, Texas, for the Southwest Regional that begins Saturday, Pratt sat down with Layne Hartsfield and Dutton Day to gain insight from their past experience of playing at the regional level.

Day and Hartsfield were part of the White Hall team that played in last year’s event, a team that suffered two one-run losses in the three setbacks. The experience the duo gained in Waco in 2011 came through loud and clear for Pratt, though it was not about the game itself. It was more about a game console.

After staying up too late playing video games, Hartsfield made the recommendation that no game consoles be made available to the team while staying at the hotel. He reflected on last year’s disappointing losses and attributed being tardy to bed as partial blame for the lack of readiness on the field.

Pratt took Hartsfield’s recommendation to heart. And while he is not taking the gaming console privileges completely away, he is setting a reasonable time to turn them off — or take the power cords out of the rooms at a designated time.

While this may seem like a small issue to some, it symbolizes the growth and maturity this team takes to Texas. It is also symbolic of White Hall’s maturity as a team and ability to advance to the championship series with a chance to play on ESPN2 Tuesday and Thursday.

It also speaks volumes of the program at White Hall and its fearless and somewhat eccentric leader, Dickie Lunsford, who is a no-nonsense guy that has been a part of the league for 47 years. While he doesn’t say much, his words are absorbed when he does. Whatever he has said to Hartsfield and Day must have sunk in pretty deep because it’s not often you find a 12-year old with enough foresight to do what is right for the team.

If White Hall does find success in Waco, it could very well be the leadership of these two young men that make it happen. They may not throw a no-hitter or hit multiple home runs, but the influence they have on the rest of the team could be colossal. Show me a leader among their peers and I will show you a leader.

So it starts at the top and trickles down, from Lunsford to Pratt, from Pratt to Hartsfield and Day and from Hartsfield and Day to the rest of the team. Lunsford said he believes this year’s squad has the most potential of any team he has taken to Waco to find success. He pointed to pitching as the difference in this year and last. He has seen the level of play in Waco and has a pretty good understanding of what it takes to win at that level.

But what he left out of that equation was the leadership of the players involved. He is not blind to it. Lunsford has forgotten more about the game of baseball than most people ever know. He sees the intangibles — things like leadership, drive and determination.

After claiming back-to-back state titles, this team has all the tools to make a strong showing in Waco.

This team is going to Texas to play — just not video games.

Chan Davis is a sports writer for The Commercial. Email him at cdavis@pbcommercial.com.