By Kim Staudinger
On Friday, 2002 Havre High graduates Garrett Hanson and Kyle Sheppard will leave the United States for Australia to play baseball.
The two-week trip is a part of the Coast-to-Coast Amateur Baseball Stars Program, which brings youth from all over the country together for camaraderie, competition and fun.
Hanson and Sheppard, both 18, were too old to play American Legion Baseball this summer, thus the interest in the trip overseas.
"We couldn't play this year in Legion and high school baseball isn't offered in the state," Sheppard said. "We wanted to see some live games before heading off to college."
The pair have both been working as assistant coaches for the Northstars and Comets this summer, and will play baseball for Miles Community College next spring. But they still feel they need more baseball to be prepared for the upcoming season.
"We don't have the opportunities here," Sheppard said. "The main reason we are going down is to get some game time. We need to see some live pitching and game situations. You can't practice that."
"It's unfortunate Montana doesn't get recognized by colleges for baseball. It was just another way to get out there," he said.
The trip offers them the chance to meet with other coaches and possibly make contacts for opportunities to play ball after their two years at Miles City, Hanson said.
The duo are the first from Havre to make the trip to Australia for the Adelaide Friendship Series Tournament, Sheppard noted. Hanson said he was told only one other person from Montana a Butte ballplayer has made the trip.
"I think it's just the chance of a lifetime to go to Australia," Hanson said. "It's an opportunity not everyone gets."
A total of 33 16-to 18-year-olds are expected at the tournament from all over the United States, Sheppard said, with several states represented. Three teams will be formed, meaning Sheppard and Hanson might end up on different teams.
Before being invited to participate, the pair had to first fill out stacks of paperwork as part of the selection process.
The trip will cost each of them about $4,000. Sheppard and Hanson have held various fund-raisers to help with the cost, including selling raffle tickets for a set of golf clubs and 50/50 tickets. They planned other events like a car wash, which was rained out during last month's downpour.
"It's expensive but we have to get playing time somewhere and it's the chance of a lifetime to go to Australia," Hanson said.
Said Sheppard: "I'm ready to go. I'm ready to play. It's been a long time since last August."
Donations may be made to the Hanson and Sheppard Australia Fund in care of Bear Paw Credit Union.