Ash-West All-Stars Head to Cal Ripken World Series in Alabama

August 2, 2018

The Ash-West All-Stars 12U team gathers Tuesday at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham before traveling to compete in the Cal Ripken World Series in Phenix City, Ala. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / MINA CORPUZ Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

ASHBURNHAM -- When the Ash-West All-Stars 12U baseball team triumphed as New England champions and qualified for the Cal Ripken World Series, a week and a half ago, the players and communities where thrilled. But then came the question about money.

The Ashburnham and Westminster communities rallied together to raise more than $12,000 in a nine-day span to send the team of 11- and 12-year-olds to Alabama to represent North Central Massachusetts on the world stage. Money poured in through a GoFundMe and the players set up tables at shops around town to ask for donations.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said assistant coach Craig Curtis. “It’s great to see the two small towns come together.”

Ten teams from around the country and China will play in the World Series, he said. The team’s first game is on Friday.

“It feels awesome (because) we’re the first from Central Mass. to make it,” said Cam Cirone, 11, who plays catcher and first base. “We were the underdogs in the championship game.”

The team played against Washington Park from Rhode Island and won 14-3 on July 20. The World Series, hosted in Phenix City, Alabama, will run from Aug. 2-9. Ash-West is scheduled to open play on Friday.

On Tuesday, team members donned their green jerseys, hugged their parents, and boarded a Cushing Academy bus to take them to Logan International Airport.

Four Ashburnham police cruisers escorted the team and coaches past the public safety building, John R. Briggs Elementary, Oakmont Regional High School, and the center of Westminster. Community members gathered along the route with signs and cheered for the procession while players on the bus waved back.

The trip had a setback when the bus caught fire on I-495 in the afternoon. The players were safe and waited for buses to take them to the airport for their evening flight.

“Not how we anticipated starting our journey,” said coach Ryan LaLiberte in a Tuesday video that shows firefighters looking at the bus, a line of fire trucks and police cruisers, and backed-up traffic.

The video was uploaded to the team’s YouTube channel to document its journey to the World Series and live-stream its games.

Owen Asadoorian, who plays second base and shortstop, said he’s excited to represent Ashburnham and Westminster, and looks forward to meeting other players.

“It’s crazy,” the 11-year-old said. “We came in as a small town and worked our way up to the World Series.”

Follow Mina Corpuz on Twitter @mlcorpuz.

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