Lufkin All-Stars dads saw potential of LLWS coming

Jeff Buchanan and Michael Ditsworth.
Jeff Buchanan and Michael Ditsworth.

WILLIAMSPORT, PA (KTRE) - Every member of the Lufkin All-Stars team have a common thread when it comes to making it to the Little League World Series, according to their fathers: a lifetime experience.

The boys have put all their determination into the game since playing T-ball around the age of 3 or 4.

Some of the fathers were there every step of the way. Jeff Buchanan and Jeff Slaga coached their sons for several years.

"He started when he was 4," Buchanan said, referring to his son, Chip. "I made sure he had a good experience. I think by a kid enjoying the game, he'll be good by proxy. So we made sure it was always enjoyable to him."

"I coached Blake and a bunch of these boys in a select league until they were about 11,' Slaga said. "I've been coaching Blake since he was in T-ball."

Slaga said it hasn't been a problem stepping back and watching Bud Maddux coach the team.

"This is all about him," he said. "About the boys. At some point you got to step back and let them experience this on their own, rather than coach."

Mike Ditsworth credits the old skipper for the success of his son, Hunter.

"It was a whole lot of Bud Maddux," Ditsworth said. "He's been playing for Bud about five years and Bud's taught him everything he knows. He didn't learn anything from me. He learned it from Coach Maddux and I'll always be appreciative of him for that."

Both father and son have made sacrifices to get to Williamsport.

"I grew up racing motocross," said Jeremy Ross, the father of Collin Ross. "My wife is the baseball fanatic. After a few years of racing motocross and a few injuries, we decided to hang the boots up and focus on baseball. And he was missing other opportunities to have fun as a kid. He sacrificed as well as a lot of these boys have to play baseball. Now he bleeds baseball."

"I don't ever hunt or fish," Danny Wigley said with a laugh. Wigley is the father of Clayton Wigley.

"It's been fun but it's been stressful," said Marco Solis, the step-father of Mark Requena. "We make sure to get him to practice and everything on time."

Some of the fathers saw the potential to making the LLWS a long time ago.

"I think it goes back to when all these boys were young and we knew they had the talent," Buchanan said. "Last year we made the decision to get them all together and go for it. Every year there's a league where you have a crop of boys who can make it happen and we had it this year."

"We've all been thinking this way," said Shane Kovar, the father of Kolby Kovar. "We knew we had the potential to make it. It became a reality to me when they made state."

The fathers admit they feel the stress while the boys have fun.

"He lives for baseball," Ditsworth said. "That's one thing he truly loves. Now I've been stressed for every single minute of every game."

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