Every one of the thirty two teams left in the state of Texas began these high school baseball playoffs with a goal to make it to the State Tournament. The Sweetwater Mustangs are probably the only squad to make that exact goal with their coach when they were just nine years old – about a decade ago.
“We've all been playing together since eight and traveling since we were nine,” senior catcher Sean Morrow told KTXS on Thursday, “it's pretty much been the same group since then.”
“I started coaching them through private lessons,” Sweetwater coach Roland Herrera explained, “I would work with them and show them some things so I got to know these guys.”
“I took lessons from him for about five years before high school so some of us knew him from that,” Junior first baseman Greg Aiken explained.
Coach Herrera had been the head coach of the Snyder Tigers for years before moving to the other side of Texas to coach in Corpus Christi. Coach Roland and his wife moved to Sweetwater to retire and the ex-skipper began giving private lessons in his spare time.
“I liked the way they carried themselves on the ball field,” Herrera said of the mini-incarnation of his Sweetwater squad, “I started thinking these boys are going to make some coach very proud.”
Little did the retired manager know that some day he would be that coach. Seeing the potential in the little leaguers, one day the coach decided to let them know the possibilities he saw in their future.
“I set them all down at the end of a practice,” Herrera explained, “I said that what you guys need to do now is to set a goal. And that goal is to win State when you get to high school.”
“At that age we were like ‘yeah’,” Morrow told KTXS, “that's awesome!”
Even more awesome was that after years of retirement of coaching, coach Hererra decided to put on a manager's uniform once again to coach the red and white of the Sweetwater Mustangs. In 2013 that same group of little leaguers are now juniors and seniors who are ready to make a childhood dream come true.
“We've built that bond and brotherhood,” Morrow explained, “now that we're in the playoffs it's like everything is starting to click.”
“You know every now and then you can still hear them talking in there,” coach Herrera said of his Sweetwater squad, “guys remember when we were little? We set a goal and that is still our goal today.”
“Of course when we are little we're thinking that's just awesome,” Aiken said of the team’s dream, "it's that goal we've been trying to get to for most of our lives.”
Sweetwater split the regular season series with Andrews, each team getting a win at home. There is nothing about Andrews that Sweetwater hasn’t seen before and if things continue to click, a trip to Austin may just be written in the stars.