STILWELL -- The COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop the Stilwell Legends tee-ball team from practicing and defeating the odds by winning the Oklahoma T-Ball State Tournament in July in Muskogee.
Legends head coach and Cherokee Nation citizen Wade Duncan said the mostly Cherokee team of 6-year-old boys and girls "put in all of the work" to secure the championship.
"The kids are awesome," he said. "The kids were dedicated. Every one of them improved from beginning to end. You can't ask for anything else."
When the Legends came together last fall, they had no idea this spring they would have to halt in-person practices and resort to practicing at home. Duncan said during this time parents helped their children continue to improve.
"The parents had a big part in it because they helped play catch with their kids. They had their own setup and that helped a lot," he said.
Duncan said after getting the all-clear from parents, the team decided to get back on the field and played in their first tournament during Memorial Day weekend.
"I asked everybody if they were willing to go play and that's whenever we started," he said.
Just a little over a month and a half later, the Legends' beat out 15 teams to secure the Oklahoma T-Ball State Tournament title. Duncan said the win is thanks to the dedication of the kids, their parents and the other coaches.
"It's just like I told them (the kids), 'every one of ya'll was in the right spot when it was your time to shine. You showed up and you made the play,'" he said.
CN citizen Zeke Martin, Legends' shortstop, said he and his teammates "worked really hard" and that he's "glad" they won. "It meant a lot to me," said Martin.
He was named the "MVP" of the tournament, and when he found out he said he was "excited" and "surprised."
"My team really helped me to get MVP," he said.
Sarah, Zeke's mother, said her "heart exploded" after learning that her son was named MVP.
"All I could think about was that Zeke was just out there doing what he loves, playing the game," she said. "He is my MVP every day, but to have his ability and hard work recognized on the state level was a feeling I wasn't prepared for."
She said the Legends' win was "deserved" because of all the hard work the kids put in. "They worked hard and deserved the gold. The countless hours the coaches put in on and off the field and the emotional support they gave our kids was beyond amazing. I couldn't ask for a better coaching staff than what we found in Wade Duncan, Jody Duncan and my husband, Josh Martin. The parents all banded together to work with our kids and keep things positive. Even though baseball during COVID-19 was trying, this was our season. This was our year. The kids made this year the year of the Stilwell Legends."