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  • Writer's pictureAaron Ferguson

Morton's state championship a win for past and future Potters

Updated: Dec 19, 2018

Morton Potters twins Connor, left, and Haegen Kelly warm up in the bullpen under the watch of Morton Youth Baseball Association players. (Matt Dayhoff/Journal Star)

JOLIET — Former and future Morton baseball players painted Route 66 Stadium in cherry red and grey this weekend as the Potters won the 2018 Class 3A state championship.

Longtime Potters coach Mike McDonald’s influence is left on so many and, whether the youth teams realize it or not, will continue to influence Morton’s baseball program.

“I think Jesse (Crawford) has done a lot of the things Mike McDonald did,” said Brett Kelley, a 1994 team member and current Illinois Central College coach. “He’s really got the youth programs involved. He does the clinics, he does the camps and he brings all the kids to the game. They’re bat boys, and they all just get really involved and it’s cool to see.”

Crawford, 36, credits McDonald for seeking him out when he first got the job six years ago. That opened up a vision for continuing to develop the Morton Youth Baseball Association and create a Potter pipeline.

“It’s a testament to my dad’s character, to his coaching skills, to his passion for the game,” said McDonald’s daughter, Allison McDonald Vershaw, “and he just knew Jesse was a young coach, and he just wanted to guide him.”

Morton’s 9U, 10U, 11U and 12U travel teams were in attendance this weekend after their games were cancelled so they all could make the trip to Route 66 Stadium in Joliet.

“Having these guys here, they’re going to be the power behind the next couple years of Morton baseball,” said senior Logan Peterson. “Just to give them a show to watch, winning a state championship, it just gives them hope.

“I think it’s really cool that all these kids came out to watch. It kind of makes me feel like a superstar a little bit. I love all these kids to death, and I’m just glad they made it out.”

Several young players got a chance to chat with senior pitcher Connor Kelly as he got loose in the bullpen, which he said helped calm him down.

“I think it’s really cool, because when I was younger, I always looked up to high school baseball players,” he said. “It’s just cool that they’re looking up to me, seeing me on the big stage and showing them how to do it and do it the right way.”

During the regular season, Westwood Park was packed with MYBA teams that played at the same time as the varsity Potters, creating a unique atmosphere.

“We try to get our travel teams to all have games on the same night as our varsity and get everybody involved, so our young men get to know these kids and aspire to be them,” said Tim Taylor, who was on the 1984 state championship team and coaches a U10 team.

Saturday’s championship win was primarily for current players, but also for the past players — and a model for future Potters players.

“My goal for them all along is for them to win state when they get to junior high and then high school,” said Adam Spangler, another Potters youth coach, “so this is what it’s all about.”

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