It doesn't get much sweeter for Sunnyside's Pete Marquez and his son, Pete.
Arguably the most fervent baseball fanatics in Sunnyside, the Marquez clan is sitting on top of the world right now. That's because the two Petes, along with the other members of the Twin City Titans, just won the Senior American Legion state title.
This past Wednesday's 7-2 state title game victory over the Titans' rival, the Kennewick Bandits, propels the Tri-City based baseball team into next week's Senior American Legion regional tournament. The winner at regionals, to be staged at Yakima's Parker Field, will advance to the American Legion World Series, set to be held in Rapid City, South Dakota in late August.
For the younger Marquez, who just recently graduated from Sunnyside High School and is looking forward to playing baseball for Shoreline Community College, the opportunity to earn a berth to the prestigious American Legion World Series is a dream come true.
For his father, well, let's just say this summer's fantastic ride around the diamond is the crowning jewel to a long and storied saga that spans more than 25 years.
The elder Marquez, who co-manages the Twin City Titans with Steve Farrington, was for many, many years the face of the Lower Valley Royals. As school let out each and every summer, Marquez and his young band of prep ball players hit the Sunnyside High baseball field running.
As the manager of the Royals for all those years, Marquez could have elected to play a softer brand of ball-Junior Legion, Babe Ruth or Cal Ripken. There were plenty of times he was pressured to take the easier route, after all said his critics, his teams would be able to rack up many more wins against junior clubs. Instead, Marquez stuck to his guns and went the much tougher way of Senior American Legion baseball.
Playing against the likes of the Yakima Beetles, the Yakima Valley Pepsi-Pak, the Wenatchee Packers and always a couple of experienced Tri-Cities teams year in and year out, Marquez's Royals often finished in the middle of the pack or near the bottom of the Senior Legion standings. His belief was that for his players to improve, they had to face the best competition available.
Likewise, when his teams won, he wanted the victories to be meaningful. Sure, there were plenty of losses along the way, but in each and every season he and his players could always file away into their memory banks a handful of positives...a stunning comeback against a perennial powerhouse, shellacking an opposing pitcher that was a sure fire bet to be drafted into the Minors, or maybe knocking off one of the favorites at an out-of-town tournament.
Over the years, as often happens in the real world, politics come into play. Sunnyside's summer baseball program for high school players took on a new life. The elder Marquez eventually relinquished the post he had held for so long and moved on, finding a new start with the Twin City Titans.
But now, the pot at the end of the rainbow that he and a myriad of Lower Valley Royals had been chasing for so long, the long awaited treasure, has been secured.
"It feels good, really good," Marquez said of his Titans winning the State Legion title earlier this week.
It's extra sweet, he added, because his son, who shares co-captain honors with teammate Jorge Esparza, is along for the ride.
The Titans will open Senior American Legion regional play next Thursday, Aug. 11, against the Montana state champs, who hail from Billings. Game time is 4 p.m. at Yakima's Parker Field. The regional title game will be played on Monday, Aug. 15.
Ironically, the two Marquezes won't be the only Sunnysiders at regionals vying for a berth to the American Legion World Series. A classmate of the younger Marquez, Derek Uberuaga, is a member of the Yakima Beetles, the host team at regionals. Uberuaga and his Beetles teammates will face the Idaho state champions in their first regional game, slated for 7 p.m. next Thursday evening.