POWHATAN

The Dixie World Series-bound Powhatan Majors team: Tanner Ritt (front row, from left), Weston Richardson, Reese Barden, Evan Laxton, Coach Butch Conner (back row, from left), Jake Burton, Zach Miles, D.J. Herring, Zach Shiflett, Mitchell Peyton, Coach Mike Ritt, Carson Conner, Parker Snellings, Jamey Richardson; and (not pictured) Robbie Kurtz, Sam Schuette, Isaac Trent, Preston Walker and Caleb Ghiatis.

POWHATAN – Weston Richardson has been playing baseball ever since he was “knee-high to a grasshopper;” he always dreamed of getting to play in the World Series.

It was a lifelong dream shared by his dad Jamey Richardson, the head coach of Weston’s 15-19-year-old Powhatan Majors team. Jamey grew up playing baseball, and he went to youth league states a couple of times, but never made it to the youth world level. Jamey’s dad – Weston’s grandfather – coached softball teams all the way up to the state finals, but Jamey said that he also never got to that next step.

But before they even started playing this season, there was something in Weston’s gut telling him: no matter what, do not give up on your team.

“Before the season even started” – he said – “I knew we were going to the World Series. I had that gut feeling we were going.”

And now – for Jamey, for his son Weston and for everyone on the Powhatan Majors team – that lifelong dream has become reality.

Circumstances have enabled Powhatan, the runner-up in its state tournament, to represent Virginia in the 2019 Dixie Majors Baseball World Series 10 days from now in Sterlington, Louisiana.

“It’s a dream come true,” Weston said. “It’s just crazy to me that we’re getting this opportunity…it’s just awesome the fact that the group that I grew up with is going to the World Series – the group I played baseball with all my life.”

When it came to playing in the World Series, the coaching staff of Jamey Richardson, Mike Ritt and Butch Conner felt like it was one of those opportunities that they couldn’t turn down.

“We’re gonna do everything we can to go there,” Jamey said, “and represent Powhatan and Virginia very well and have a great time.”

The Powhatan Majors has a good mixture of boys – “a great group of boys,” Jamey said – who have played baseball at Powhatan High School and Blessed Sacrament Huguenot.

Initially, the players didn’t really gel very well together as a unit until they got into the state tournament – they had a short regular season that didn’t begin until the end of high school ball because of the age of the student-athletes, and then there were players who hadn’t played with each other as teammates because they were in different grades or at different schools. But the more they played together, Weston observed, the closer they became.

“They dug down deep and really came together as a team,” Jamey added. “I guess being out there on the field and seeing what each other can do and rely on each other and playing as a team has really made this team come together.”

“We all talk, we all joke around, we’re honestly all best friends now,” Weston said. “To see how far we came along in the little bit of time that we’ve had is just mind-blowing – absolutely mind-blowing.”

While they didn’t really have a time to do any kind of team-building activities outside of baseball practice, the team turned the Wednesday before the state tournament into a day of scrimmages, with the three coaches getting in and scrimmaging the players as well.

“I’m proud to say that we hung right in there with them and tied the leading team that night,” Jamey said lightheartedly. “Just little stuff like that…we have fun at practice, and then when it comes down to actually playing hardcore baseball, the boys really got together and played hard for one general cause. We’ve got a lot of heart. I’m very proud of Weston and all the kids on the team who have stepped up and done an amazing job.”

Weston – who plays outfield and second base in addition to pitching – sees himself as the team captain; he can be heard loudly in the dugout getting his teammates pumped up, his dad Jamey observed. Jamey added that both Ritt and Weston have great bats, and they both help lead the Powhatan Majors from the mound. D.J. Herring has also been a strong pitcher, and catching, Jamey noted, has been great with players like Carson Conner, Reese Barden and Zachary Miles.

The Powhatan Majors have speed in the outfield; Isaac Trent is able to run down flyballs that the staff wouldn’t think the players would be able to get to, and he’s made key catches in the gap. The batting lineup is strong all the way through, and the bench is talented, with players able to sub in and make great plays for the team.

“We’re just a good group of boys all the way through,” Jamey said.

Powhatan has four players who will age out of the program at the end of the year: Weston, Evan Laxton, Reese Barden and Tanner Ritt – guys who have been playing together for years, even as far back as T-ball.

“Before the tournament, I went and talked to the boys and I told them…’We have four guys that are aging out, and I want you to sit there and think for a minute: you’ve been playing baseball your whole life and this is your favorite sport of all and this could be your last tournament,’” Jamey recalled. “I want you to think to yourself: how would you want to play in your last tournament, and how you would want your players to play in the last tournament?

“They really showed how much they can play,” Jamey said.

One of the biggest Dixie League baseball state tournament games that Powhatan played this year – the second game against Buckingham – showed Jamey the kind of heart and character his players possessed. Buckingham jumped out early, leading 11-5, but Powhatan, despite playing another game in the hot sun earlier in the day and now taking on this team around 9:30 or 10 at night, didn’t give up and battled back. The players rallied to tie Buckingham and force extra innings.

Powhatan won that game in the bottom of the eighth; Evan Laxton drilled a line drive up the middle for a lead-off double, and Zachary Miles, batting second, saw a pitch that Jamey described as “absolutely perfect” and launched it all the way to the outfield fence, bringing home Laxton for the winning, walk-off run.

They played Goochland in the state final, but Powhatan lost, concluding the tournament as state runners-up.

But they hadn’t concluded their season.

Despite winning the state championship, Goochland did not have enough players to go, meaning that the bid to advance to the next level of play fell to the next team up – the state runners-up.

That’s how the Powhatan Majors secured their trip to the 2019 Dixie Majors World Series.

"It's kind of hard to wrap my head around the fact that we're actually able to get a chance to go," Jamey said. "It's something that I'll never forget."

The team has started a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/f/powhatan-county-va-majors-baseball-louisiana-bound?member=2577284&fbclid=IwAR2lTBLTYguE0Nq-4u_fAM6bO7KoYl8xYObc9grJHItI8kcdGmslw3c74Ys) to help with travel expenses related to the World Series, including hotels and food.

Everyone on the team, Weston said, is looking forward to seeing the competition from across the Southeast Region of the United States. The elite Dixie tournament for Virginia’s representatives from Powhatan kicks off Saturday, July 27 against North Carolina’s all-stars at 10 a.m. in Sterlington, Louisiana.

Weston is also looking forward to stepping foot on that “amazing baseball field that’s built just for this reason.”

“We’re all super psyched,” Weston said. “It’s gonna be a blast – whether we win or lose, it’s just gonna be a great memory.”

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