Coaching a team to the World Series once is an exciting feat, but coaching the team to the national championship twice is overwhelming, according to Twin City Titans coach and Sunnyside High School teacher Pete Marquez.
He has been involved with baseball for more than 30 years and Monday told Sunnyside's Noon Rotary Club members that working with a team of high caliber teens has been great for him.
Marquez's team traveled to the American Legion World Series in 2005 and was runner-up to a team from Oklahoma. He had the opportunity to take his team all the way to the championship game again last year and again the team earned runner-up honors.
What he is really proud of, however, is the fact that many of those who have played for the Twin City Titans have become key members of several Division 1 college teams. His first player to make it to the Bigs was Travis Buck, who plays right field for the Oakland Athletics.
Of the 17 players on the 2005 roster, 15 moved on to play college baseball. College players Marquez coached as prepsters include Tyler Cheney of the University of Washington and Paul Martin of Lewis-Clark College, and many others.
Marquez told the Rotarians many of the 2008 players have already committed to playing college ball, including Jamison Rowe, who signed with the University of Nevada.
He said the summer American Legion program would not be available for the youngsters he coaches without the dedication of volunteers and the national organization. Volunteers fund and support his program at every level below Regionals. Then, the national organization funds travel, food and lodging expenses for those teams earning Regional and World Series berths.
During the 2005 World Series, Marquez said he was so happy to have his team represent the Northwest. They beat the Kennewick Bandits at the State level and an Oakland team during the Regional tournament.
Each of the parents paid in excess of $800 to fly to South Dakota to see the youngsters play at the World Series that year.
"The people are great...the parents are dedicated," said Marquez.
Of those he met while at the World Series, he said he has fond memories. He said the American Legion commander at the first day's orientation is intimidating and "tells ya how it is....but, he's really a great guy."
Another person embedded in Marquez's memory is "Junior," who was in charge of the coin flips each day.
He said professional baseball players escorted the teams to a banquet and the two escorts for the Twin City Titans at the 2005 series were Burt Campaneras and Joe Rudi.
"I will never forget that," Marquez shared.
His 2005 team defeated another team from Alabama to start the series, and ended the series championship in the bottom of the ninth inning with a balk. That cost them the championship trophy, but Marquez was proud of his players and their efforts.
He said, "I was having the time of my life."
Marquez said another person he became familiar with and grew to appreciate was Mary, an older woman who kept stats at each game. Because of the relationship he developed with her, he asked his team to wish her farewell after the series was over.
In 2008, the World Series was held in Shelby, N.C. and many of the faces Marquez had grown to know and appreciate were again present.
He was impressed with the community's support of the championships and the team developed a routine. That routine included visiting the local Burger King on a daily basis. Because of this, the manager of the restaurant became a friend of the team and gave them a cake before the final game, which was against a team from Las Vegas. The Nevada team won top honors, but he was again proud of the Twin City Titans and feels he learned a lot about the communities he visited.
"Both communities had a tremendous amount of business and community support," said Marquez.
He told the Rotarians the next World Series will be hosted by Spokane and he has hopes that other coaches will feel the same about their experiences as he does about those he experienced at the 2005 and 2008 World Series tournaments.