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Originally published: 2014-07-12 14:43:14
Last modified: 2014-07-12 14:44:46

High Country Crusaders headed to Chattanooga, Tenn.

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

The High Country Crusaders, an 11-under team made up of players from Watauga, Ashe and Avery counties, will play in the Baseball Players Association World Series, beginning Tuesday and running through Sunday in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Crusaders are familiar to playing tournament in Tennessee. They won three tournaments they played in Tennessee to qualify for the World Series.

It's been a long road for the Crusaders, who started building their team two years ago, according to coach Mike Gore. Since then, they've added players to form the current roster.

"It started when they were nine-years old playing Equip ball, and we won two games the first year," Gore said. "We've had a lot of different kids. Four or five of them have been on every one of the teams. Now, we're made up of a group of boys from Ashe, Watauga and Avery counties."

Gore said there are plenty of activities that will go with the tournament. Following the opening ceremonies on Tuesday, the teams will trade pins. There is also a home run derby.

"There's something going on all the time," he said.

The Crusaders also have a different reason for playing the games. The team has a mission of spreading the word of God with opponents, their coaches and the umpires.

They'll say a pregame prayer with their opposing coaches and the umpires, and then end with a prayer with the other team.

"Since we are, for lack of a better term, a faith-based team, we are often asked to do a devotional," Gore said. "I lead it, but the boys are involved. We read scripture with all the teams that Sunday."

Their goal was to reach at least 600 players, 200 coaches and 100 umpires this season. Gore said the Crusaders exceeded those goals by reaching more than 1,000 players.

Gore said the prayers have not only been effective in spreading the word of God -- he said that they've had nine adult salvations -- but that it adds civility to a sport that is known for arguments with umpires, and hard feelings.

"We pray with the coaches and the umpires and we know that they are human and are going to make mistakes," Gore said. "We've played a lot of good games with a lot of good teams and we've had a lot of fun. All of that screaming and hollering does not set a good example for the kids. It seems that when teams play against us, they take a different approach."