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Omaha baseball team surprises bat boys from N. Carolina with team ring

Posted at 10:54 PM, Jan 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-07 23:54:54-05

An unexpected friendship between Omaha's Creighton Prep Legion Baseball team and two young boys from North Carolina knows no distance.

The Five Point Bank baseball team made it to the American Legion World Series Championship in Shelby, North Carolina over the summer. The team was assigned two bat boys - 10 year-old Grayson Gilbert and 11-year-old Cooper Shope. 

"You know you're going to have bat boys but to have such cool kids like that and be so into it, was a lot of fun," said Dylan Phillips, a senior at Creighton Prep.

The players say they couldn't have asked for better bat boys.

"From the first moment it was a bond that formed right away and we spent hours and hours with them and the families hing out with our parents," said Max Mandel, another senior on the team.

The young boys' job was to assist the team, but their role turned in to a much greater one.

"Those little boys rallied around the boys and their families were amazing. They came to every game and we didn't know who belonged to which team, but then we figured it out and they were sitting with us in the rows and cheering us on - it was absolutely wonderful," said Nancy Mandel, one of the player's mom.

At the team's banquet Sunday night, the team received their Regional Championship rings and surprised the two bat boys with their own rings during a surprise Facetime chat.

"They're a part of the team and I think they're going to love it," said Mandel.

Traci Shope, Cooper's mom says they couldn't have asked for a better baseball team.

"Those parents raised some great kids," Shope told 3 News Now. "I hope your boys turn out as great as them."

Brandy Gilbert says the whole experience has been 'life-changing.' 

"This was an amazing, unexpected experience we never thought we'd get to go through," said Gilbert. "The team and their families poured so much love and support in our bat boys."

Gilbert says the timing was also perfect, since just months before the World Series, her fourth grade son attempted to commit suicide after dealing with a series of bullies.

"He tried to kill himself in February of 2017, and to be a bat boy you have to apply and submit a video and they told him he was selected as a bat boy the month after he attempted suicide so it was just a Godsend that he got that call at that time," said Gilbert.

She says since the first day Grayson met the baseball team, he would come with animated stories about the team and its players. She realized the team from Omaha, who they had no previous connection with, was making a different in her son's life.

"It wasn't until a few days into the series that I realized I wanted the team to know the type of influence the team was having on my son. So one afternoon, Grayson's dad went into the dugout with the team and told them about the suicide attempt. Some of the players and coaches got emotional. And it wasn't that I wanted my son to get any type of special treatment or anything, I just wanted them to know they were doing a lot of good," said Gilbert. "To experience the tournament and meet those guys was the most special thing that could ever happen to him."

"This is just a small example of how baseball forms bonds that will last a lot longer than you think - even 1,500 miles away from where we are now," said Mandel.

The players and bat boys remain close and speak regularly through social media and phone.
The bat boys and their families will travel to Omaha in June for the College World Series.