Former Pacific Little Leaguers treasure lifelong bonds

2014 all-star team played in the Little League World Series
By David Pan | May 02, 2019
Courtesy of: Michelle Corsi The 2014 Pacific Little League all-star team gathered for an informal reunion Saturday, April 27, at Lynndale Park. The team included (back row, left to right) coach Robley Corsi II, Tygan Duncan, Karsen Tjarneberg, Tai Starchman, Nate King, Colton Walsh, Tyler Durbin, Ben Grant, assistant coach Eric Grant; (front row) Mason Vaughn, Matthew Turcotte, Robley Corsi III, Ian Michael, Logan Kruse, Read Carr.

The summer of 2014 holds a special place in the hearts of 13 baseball players.

Starting in mid-June and ending in late August, members of Pacific Little League’s all-star team, spent almost every day together practicing, playing games and just being a kid.

The Pacific Little League all-stars won district, state and regional championships and were one of eight teams from the United States that played in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

But what the players remember the most – more than the successes on the diamond – are the lasting friendships that were forged during that three-month time span.

All 13 players – Karsen Tjarneberg, Tai Starchman, Robley Corsi III, Ian Michael, Logan Kruse, Read Carr, Mason Vaughn, Tyler Durbin, Tygan Duncan, Nate King, Colton Walsh, Ben Grant and Matthew Turcotte – along with head coach Robley Corsi Jr. and assistant coach Eric Grant gathered together for an informal reunion, organized by Vaughn’s mother Amy, on Saturday, April 27, at Lynndale Park.

Saturday likely will be one of the last times all of the players are together in the same place, at least in the foreseeable future, since many of them are graduating high school next month and heading off to college.

Edmonds-Woodway senior Ian Michael has no doubt he and his teammates will remain close even as they spread out across the country.

“I think it’s definitely a lifelong bond,” he said. “We can all get together and have fun together because we were best friends for three months. It’s probably one of the closest-knit teams I was ever on. The bonds still last to this day.”

Coach Corsi noted that the core of the team came together as 10-year-olds and ending up playing together for three years. Mason Vaughn joined the 11-year-old all-star team and at the time wasn’t too familiar with his future teammates.

“Before that I knew pretty much none of them on a friend level,” Vaughn said. “After that summer, I still hang out with a good six or seven of them quite a bit. I keep in contact with all of them. If we wouldn’t have gone that far, I wouldn’t have those relationships that I do now.”

Eight of the 13 all-stars are still playing baseball in high school. Tjarneberg, Starchman, Corsi III, Michael, Kruse and Carr are at Edmonds-Woodway, while Vaughn is at Meadowdale and Durbin is at King’s.

Corsi III had not talked to some of his former teammates in a long time, but they were able to pick up right where they left off.

“Even when we haven’t seen each other in years. … we still feel like we’re really close and we’re good friends,” he said.

Many of the friendships grew out of the hours and hours of practice at Lynndale Park. Practice also is where Durbin started to realize how good the team was. At batting practice, he and his teammates were hitting home run after home run.

“You don’t see that very often,” Durbin said. “A lot of these teams they have one or two good players, but every single one of us was good.”

As talented as they were, the players never let success go to their heads.

“We were never cocky,” Tjarneberg said. “We always just played our game and let other teams try to beat us. For the most part, we ended up on top. We always competed. We were just a bunch of fighters.”

Coach Corsi said the players’ love for the game made his job easy.

“The kids just wanted to play. They enjoyed each other’s company,” he said. “Everything came together – all the pieces. They had the talent. They had the pitching. They had the mindset that they couldn’t lose.”

Of course, coaching 13 boys wasn’t always easy and Corsi relied heavily on assistant coach Eric Grant.

“None of this would have been possible without him,” coach Corsi said. “It was like we were married and we had 13 kids. It was a constant battle figuring out who’s doing what.”

Corsi’s dedication to his players was an integral part of the team’s success.

“He was personally invested in every single player,” Durbin said. “He was willing to do anything it takes to make every person the best player they could be.”

That desire to help players extended beyond team lines.

Vaughn recalled how coach Corsi helped him with his swing during the regular season one year even though Corsi wasn’t his coach. Vaughn was hanging out with Corsi’s son at their house.

“He goes and take me outside in his backyard and we hit off a tee for two hours and he critiques my swing just because he can,” Vaughn said. “The next day I hit a home run off his team. I’ll never forget that. I don’t think any coach would do that for me.”

Michael said that coaches Corsi and Grant got the best out of all the players and taught them lifelong lessons through baseball.

“Never give up. Work really hard and then if you do work really hard, you can get what you want,” Michael said.

Michael said he also learned “how to work with a team and with each other for something bigger than yourself.”

Tjarneberg describes Corsi as one of the greatest coaches he’s ever had.

“He’s someone who really helped shape me into the person I am today,” Tjarneberg said.

The players agree that the trip to the Little League World Series lived up to their expectations. The team went 1-2 in the tournament.

The atmosphere and attention from fans were overwhelming at times, but the players soaked up every moment.

“It was surreal,” Vaughn said. “We were meeting MLB players. Kids were coming up and asking for our autographs. We felt like we were in the Major Leagues.”

The memories of the entire summer are seared into Durbin’s memory.

“You feel like a movie star for about two months,” he said. “Then you go back to school and everyone knows you again. That experience will stick with a lot of us for the rest of our lives.”

 

 

 

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