MORRISTOWN - The Kaden Classic has become a staple on the youth baseball tournament circuit.
The event, which is named for Union Local fifth grader Kaden Koscoe, is expanding this year, making it possible for Kaden to play in the event for the first time since its inaugural event in 2010.
Along with the usual pinto tournament, the Koscoe Family, which organizes the event, decided to add a 10U division as well, which affords Kaden the opportunity to suit up in the event, which opens Friday at Lynn Hunkler Park in Morristown.
PICTURED ARE the Ohio Valley Thunderbolts 10U team that will be taking part in the Kaden Classic this weekend at Lynn Hunkler Park in Morristown. Kneeling, from left, are Eric Kirkpatrick,Colton Cybulski,Zac Hoops and Enzio Figaretti. Back row, from left, are Tyler Gummere,Dereck Wittsberger, Colby Smolira, Luke Merritt,Crayton Gadza and Kaden Koscoe.Absent were Christian Hernendez and Kobe Mitchell. The Thunderbolts are coached by Kurt Smolira, Vinny Kirkpatrick and John Merrit.
"It's really exciting to be able to play in it," Kaden said. "Our team has been doing pretty well and we're really hoping to be able to win (The Kaden Classic), but we know it'll be a tough one."
The third annual tournament's proceeds will benefit the Conquer Chiari Foundation. Per Kaden's request, the tournament benefitted a local family last year.
The tournament, which has teams from all over the tri-state area signed up, will utilize four fields. The tournaments will be held concurrently and both will wrap up on Sunday.
Koscoe was diagnosed with the incurable neurological condition Chiari Malformation, which affects just 300,000 people, at the age of five.
When it comes to baseball, the condition hasn't slowed the St. Louis Cardinals' fan down one bit.
After playing in the Union Local Junior Sports as a youngster, Koscoe approached his parents about trying out for a travel ball team. After making sure he was aware that it wasn't a sure thing, they obliged and allowed him to try out for the Ohio Valley Thunderbolts.
Koscoe earned his spot on the squad and has been playing a high rate of games all summer.
"The team is comprised of kids from Morristown, Wheeling, St. Clairsville, Barnesville and Martins Ferry," said Coach Vinnie Kirkpatrick. "This is a great group of kids and we've played a lot of games, but our main focus is teaching the fundamentals of the game. We want to not only teach them a little bit about baseball, but also about being good young men."
The Thunderbolts, who are playing this weekend in Parkersburg, have a few more events remaining, including the Kaden Classic.
"I think this is a great event," Kirkpatrick said. "Anytime you have a young man who's battled some adversity and to be able to coach him now is really exciting for me."
Kaden has had a very productive season, according to Kirkpatrick.
"Kaden loves the game, he's a sponge and comes from a great family," Kirkpatrick said. "It's good to get out there and see him have fun on a regular basis. There's nothing better to recognize a young man who's active in the community."
The excitement for the Thunderbolts to take part in the Kaden Classic has been building for several weeks as Kaden's teammates are eager to play well in the event named for him.
"I get goose bumps just thinking about it," Kirkpatrick said. "I think it's going to be really special for him. Plus, we'll sit down with the kids and make sure they understand what he's gone through. We don't want these kids to take stepping onto a baseball field for granted because there are a lot of kids in the world who don't get that opportunity."
Kaden lines up as the Thunderbolts' catcher for most games.
"I love throwing guys out (trying to steal)," Kaden said. "I also like making outs at home plate."
According to Kirkpatrick, Kaden has saved the Thunderbolts several bases during the season because of how well he blocks pitches in the dirt.
"For a 10-year old kid, I think he blocks balls better than a lot of high school catchers," Kirkpatrick said. "I'm proud of him. He's like a brick wall out there. He's 110 percent all of the time."
During the course of the tournament, there will be a full concession stand available. There will be a charge of $2 for parking on Saturday and Sunday.
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