Over spring break, three middle school students competed in The Pony European Championships baseball tournament in Prague. Eighth-graders Gavin Crawford, Nitin Rao, and Matthew Furst all played on the same team representing the United Kingdom. Their team was called the Archers and it was one of the 16 teams that took part in the tournament.
The Archers came first in the tournament after having played and won all of their six games. Furst thought that the German team was the hardest to beat.
Rao, the third baseman for the Archers, thought that “it was really a challenge for us as people because our team faced some racial discrimination from the German team.” The German team were shouting racist comments towards the Japanese players on the Archers team. Nitin said “we dealt with it well though and then beat them 7-0. We walked away and we didn’t say much.”
On the other hand, Furst felt that the tournament also brought their team together as everyone had to “just trust every guy on the team that they would do their jobs so that the next guy could do theirs.”
As a result of winning the tournament in Prague, they are now headed to the Pony World Series in Pennsylvania in August.
The tournament brought together the best U14 baseball teams in Europe and Northern Africa. The tournament consisted of four divisions with four teams in each division. The coaches of the Archers were Mr. Warren Furst and Mr. John Filazo. In the quarter-finals, the Archers played Israel, which led them to play Germany in the semi-finals and the Netherlands in the finals.
Crawford felt that the highlight of the tournament was winning; however, Rao felt that the best part was learning to communicate with their team members as “half of their team didn’t speak good English.” Most of their team was from the British school in Japan and other international schools in England.
Crawford, who plays catcher, and Furst, who plays as a shortstop but came in as a relief pitcher in the last two innings of the final game, “felt the pressure” as the game against the Netherlands was tied 4-4.
Furst “really learned something during these final two innings on the mound. With all the noise and chaos around me, as well as a lot of pressure on my shoulders, I managed to lock in and just play catch with Gavin. This was one of the best moments of my life.”
In addition to the happiness that the team felt after playing and winning, they also are looking forward to the Pony World series as it is going to be a televised event on MLB TV in the US and UK. This will be the first time Crawford, Rao, and Furst have been on TV playing baseball and they were all super excited.
Crawford, who is going to try for the U16 team next year, said that “it was really good because we were the first team representing the United Kingdom to ever win this big tournament. We made a lot of history in the tournament.”
Rao also focused on how special their accomplishment was. “In the history of the 68 years that they have been doing this tournament in Europe, we’re the first Archers team to win and it is amazing how we got this far.”
Overall, the tournament was a great learning experience for the boys. Rao said that it tested his character as a player and person. Furst felt that it built him up as a player. Crawford and Furst hope to hope to continue playing baseball in the future and although Rao is moving and will not be able to play in the U16 team next year, he too hopes to continue playing baseball in the future too.