By Kristen Levine
Cooperstown, New York is a small village that hosts legendary baseball history, from Doubleday
Field to the Baseball Hall of Fame itself. This August, it will also potentially host the Wachusett
Bravehearts, an Amateur Athletic Union [AAU] team hosted out of Holden, with local players from
Sterling filling out the ranks. Head Coach Brian Williams is in his third season with the team, and four
years overall.
“I’ve been coaching baseball for thirteen years in Holden,” Williams said. “I coached a bit in school,
primarily at town level. AAU teams are usually played in spring and sometimes throughout the summer
when school teams end. Some coaches say if you want to play in college, you need to have AAU
experience….it’s the extra baseball time that coaches are looking for.”
The Bravehearts host players from eleven to twelve years old, but the name is shared with another
baseball team of college-age players located in Worcester. “We’re not really affiliated with [the
Worcester team] but we use their logo, and they sometimes come out to see some of our games,”
Williams said.
This summer, the Bravehearts could be playing for more than the local collegiate team. The
Cooperstown 12U Baseball Tournament held at Cooperstown Dreams Park runs three quarters of the
year, attracting players from all over the world.
“[Teams are] there for a week with six guaranteed games,” Williams said. “After those games
bracket play starts from Tuesday to Sunday, with Sunday as the championship for the league. After
that on the next Tuesday, a new batch of teams comes to play.”
Entering the tournament involves applying for entry rather than performance or record-based
prerequisites. The application for the Bravehearts was submitted in 2022 and has officially been
accepted for this year, recognizing the team as a legitimate baseball club.
“Now we’re set [for entry],” Williams said. “If we want to send a team every year we could.”
Beyond achieving official club recognition, the very idea of heading to the heartland of baseball
history is exciting. The excitement is a little bittersweet, as the players will be moving on to different
teams, facing the end of their tenure on the Bravehearts.
“The kids are super excited,” Williams said. “We have no idea how we’ll perform, don’t know what
we’re going to face. This team will probably never be a team again after this season; some of them
hang it up, some may play for middle school, high school and college…it’s up to them. It’s special that
this is the last time they’re playing together.”
Williams is also excited by the prospect of playing in the tournament, but also recognizes the time
and effort needed to bring everything together. “I’m super excited, but it’s a tough one,” he said. “We’re
doing winter workouts and practices; we have a full season of baseball before we even worry about
the tournament because of finances.”
The team is hosting fundraising efforts to collect the money needed; the tournament’s requirements,
as well as room and board costs, food, and other necessities are a major expense. And beyond
necessary components, there are also commemorative aspects to consider, such as home and away
jerseys, uniforms, and special baseball team pins for trading.
“Pin trading is a big deal,” Williams said. “You trade with the teams you play. [We have been] working
to create a design and have enough for the kids to trade with.”
Spanning from August 2 to 8, the team will be allotted two games per day. The 8th may be the last
game day depending on team performance, and if the Bravehearts will move forward to championship
games. As this opportunity is a once in a lifetime chance, Williams sees it less as athletic competition
as the chance to experience something truly unique and memorable.
“No matter what, it’s still baseball,” Williams said. “It’s a good group of kids. [This will] probably be
the one and only time I’ll do this, and the kids too.”