As racial tensions continue to escalate around the country, the Lufkin All-Stars are 13 individuals representing the US Sunday as one team.
A look at team pictures from each of the 16 teams representing different regions around the nation and the world who participated in the Little League World Series show a predominant race represented on each team. Except for one: the Southwest Regional Champions from Lufkin, who can now say they are representing their country ahead of their World Championship Game against Japan.
It makes sense. Those international teams have players from their countries and they have players of the same race. Players from Japan are Asian. Players from Mexico are Hispanic.
The US is known as the Melting Pot. Where people from all races immigrate to pursue the American Dream. There is no American "race."
For the teams representing various regions, those leagues they represent are typically of a certain area of a large city with a population of a certain racial and economic background. Take Greenville, NC, for instance. That league covers a six-mile radius in Greenville.
Many of the US teams in the LLWS have a couple minority players. But Lufkin is different.
The Lufkin All-Stars represent a full community, not just one portion of a large city. The team is the most diverse represented in the US and it's a team of white, black and Hispanic players who conquered the national championship.
Maybe the rest of the nation should take notice of a group of boys and what they were able to accomplish when they put their racial and social issues aside.
"Given things going on in our society today, I think it's great and refreshing we have young men of different backgrounds, all social, economic backgrounds, get to enjoy this game of baseball,' said assistant coach Malcolm Deason. "It's definitely been great for me to get to experience this with our boys of Lufkin. I think it's reflective of the type of community we live in. Where we're supportive of each other and definitely supportive of kids of different racial backgrounds."
One parent believes the mindset comes from leadership. Manager Bud Maddux does not care about the color of a player's skin, just how good they can play the game.
"Just because a kid's a certain color doesn't mean he's going to get any special treatment," said Mike Ditsworth. "Especially with Bud. You can look at Coach Bud's history, and it don't matter what color you are, where you come from, who your momma is, who your daddy is, none of that matters. All that matters is if you can play the game of baseball."
"I don't look at things like that," Maddux said. "I look at people and baseball players and I don't group them into that. We're proud of everybody on this team. They're real good young men. That's not something I personally look at. I'm proud of every one of them here."
Being open to diversity can only mean good things, according to a league official.
"Having that diversity is great," said Casey Bowers, the board president of Lufkin Little League. "It gets everyone excited about the game of baseball. Having these kids being great at baseball will have kids in T-ball looking at it and saying, 'I want to be where Christian [Mumphery] is and where Mark [Requena] is."
Ditsworth said he believes the rest of the nation could look the Thundering 13 as an example of how we should be. Bowers agrees.
"These kids, they're brothers," he said. "Anybody who watches these kids can tell they love each other. They don't look at ethnicity or financial backgrounds and they love each other."
Lufkin plays Japan for the World Championship at 2 p.m. CDT on ABC.
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