Last summer, Rick Sapp and Jim Benner, head coaches of the Fallston Cubs 15-16 summer travel baseball team, entered the Cubs in the highly competitive Baltimore Metro League on Friday evenings.
They wanted to see how the players would fare in such tough competition.
The players, mostly 15-year-olds, surged through the one night a week, 10-game schedule, taking first place and advancing to the first round of the state tournament sponsored by the Maryland Amateur Baseball Congress (MABC).
The experience last summer has paid dividends this season.
Not only are the players competing in the Baltimore Metro League on Friday nights (against six teams), they also compete in the full-time Baltimore Metro League (against 14 teams). It runs a grueling seven-week, 39-game schedule.
The leagues are separate and the champion of each league can advance to a state tournament.
The Cubs lead the race in both leagues this season, with a 5-0 Friday night league record and a 22-6 full-time Metro League record.
The Yankee Rebels blue team (18-7), Pikesville (18-8), Putty Hill (17-8) and the Dayton Raiders (16-9) trail, but offer the closest competition in challenging for the championship.
Other teams in the full-time Metro League this year include two teams from the Harford Sox club and Carroll County.
Also, Putty Hill, the Columbia Reds, Yankee Rebels gold and Harbor Federal.
The Cubs play every day of the week to meet the demands of the two leagues.
The only day off for the players is Monday, but lately that day has been used for make-up games.
A tough summer schedule? For sure.
"It is extremely difficult to stay focused night after night after night," he said. "It's impossible."
Even with all of his talented players, Coach Sapp says there can still be nights where the team comes out flat.
"We have already won a lot of games which I thought the other teams had won, just because our talent has come through," he said.
Timely hitting, solid pitching and contributions from every player have been the keys for the Cubs this year.
Coach Sapp emphasizes these aspects of the game before and after games, say players.
The players and coaches say they try to play just one game at a time.
Pitchers Paul Barabasz (5-0), David Adam (3-1), Mike Giuffrida (5-1), Shaun Matthai (2-3), Ryan Stumptner (4-0), Brian Taylor (3-0), Tom Walsh (2-1) and Sean Ward (4-0) work the rotation for the Cubs.
Ward leads the pitchers with an ERA of 1.09.
Talent is also evident at the plate.
Taylor leads the team with a .467 batting average.
He has four home runs and nine triples. Tim Deyesu is batting .416 with two home runs and 13 doubles.
Adam (.431) and Ward (.409) also lead the team. Barabasz is batting .338, has three home runs, three triples, five doubles and 32 walks.
Taylor (C. Milton Wright), Ward (Joppatowne), Stumptner (C. Milton Wright) and Thomas Walsh (C. Milton Wright) are new to the team this year.
Bryan Cornell is from Bel Air High School, Barabasz of Calvert Hall, and the rest of the team, including third baseman Matt Stromberger and outfielder Chris Leonard, are from Fallston.
Adam, the lead-off batter and first baseman, tore ligaments in his knee last weekend against Putty Hill and was scheduled for surgery last Thursday morning. He may be able to play in potential postseason games.
The remainder of the league games are important for the Cubs as the season winds down.
League champions go on to compete in state, regional and national championships.
The World Series, sponsored by the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), will be held in California in mid-August.
In 1988, the Fallston travel team placed fifth in the nation out of 10 teams at the World Series in Atlanta.
On Wednesday at Fallston, the Cubs took advantage of some weak Reisterstown pitching and jumped out to an early 9-0 lead and coasted to a 14-5 victory.
After the game, Ryan Sapp and Brian Benner, who have been coached by their fathers since the 9-10 season in 1986, said none of the players mind putting in the time on the diamond.
They also expressed concern with upcoming challenges.
"It's harder to stay No. 1 than become No. 1," said Ryan. "You've got to take every game like it's your best game because everybody is going to be coming out gunning for you.
"They're going to be throwing their ace pitchers," he said. "You've got to pick it up a notch. "It's like a job for us now," he said.
"But you don't get paid," said Brian. "You've just got to love the game," he said.