Gunnar Lewis of Hesston was voted MVP at the USSSA World Series for the U9 Baseball Championship in Liberty, Missouri.
Gunnar, a member of the World Series winning team, the Royals, has been playing baseball since he was four-years-old. Six years later, he said the time and effort paid off as he brought home the most prestigious award of the tournament, MVP.
Gunnar’s performance at second base and pitcher, as well as an in-the-park home run, put him on the radar for the award.
“It felt great! Anyone on the team could have been called and I felt great that my name was called for MVP,” he said.
Pat Lewis, Gunnar’s father, is also one of the team’s coaches. Pat said during the two weeks the family spent traveling, “No game or moment has ever been too big or hard for him. There’s never a point where there was a position he didn’t want to play or a job he didn’t want to do. He’s a good teammate and a good friend,” he said.
Before winning the World Series in Liberty, the team swept through the Kansas State tournament as champions in Kansas City.
The young second-baseman said during the final game of the series, the team faced an opponent they had previously sent to the losers bracket.
“I was nervous the whole game playing second,” he said.
Pat said the nearly two weeks away from home competing for the state title and later in the World Series we worth the effort.
“The looks on their faces that last game at the tournament, when you see the kid that gets that hit, whatever that moment is in each tournament that brings that joy to their faces,” he said.
Pat, who has been coaching Gunnar’s teams since his son was 7-years-old, said he got into coaching somewhat by accident.
“They lost their third base coach during the State Tournament, and I stepped in and have been helping ever since,” he said.
Pat said since he began coaching, there have been a core group of five boys, including Gunnar, who have been playing together.
“I think what made this team special is the chemistry. They came together as friends,” he said.
Pat added the team had an advantage over opponents, with on-base runners stealing second and getting into scoring position at every opportunity.
“If we got on base, we stole second on the first pitch of the next batter,” said Gunnar.
Pat added, “That was a big part of our game plan. We have a lot of speed. We put other teams in pretty tough situations with our base running.”
Gunnar said he and his teammates had plenty of games to perfect their skills. With 53 games in the season, the Royals finished 50-3 and held 38 practices.
“I like it because I get to have that much fun a lot more than I would playing rec and playing more games. It’s a lot more fun playing more,” said Gunnar.
As a coach, Pat commended the players and their parents for their dedication to the team.
“I’ve never seen a group of 9-year-olds this dedicated to anything. The commitment from the boys to work this hard has been the easy part. The challenge is really our finances and the time,” he said.
Gunnar said he realized the work put in at games and practice has the potential to pay big dividends.
“I want people to know that it’s not that easy. You can’t just work out for an hour. You have to work for hours and hours every day to get really good at it,” he said.
Gunnar, a Kansas City Royals fan, said some day he hopes to take a starting short stop or second base position in Kauffman Stadium.
Pat said he hopes to help his son achieve his dream.
“As we get older, the goal is to enter showcase tournaments and put all 11 or 12 of these boys in front of college scouts,” he said.
Gunnar ended his season with exceptional stats batting a .614 an on base percentage of .733; .713 in slugging; 68 hits; 72 stolen bases; 41 RBI and two inside the park home runs. As a pitcher, his ERA was 3.14 with 24 strikeouts and only five walks.