Pickards enjoy the ride with elite travel baseball team
Posted: 07/10/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Steve Krah
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Photo Supplied Catcher Travis Pickard (far right) meets with his Chi-Town Cream baseball teammates. Pickard, a Goshen High School senior, is playing this summer with the Chicago area elite travel team.
Photo Supplied Travis Pickard (far right) gets down to block a pitch for Chi-Town Cream. Pickard, a Goshen High School senior, is playing this summer with the Chicago area elite travel team.
Photo Supplied Catcher Travis Pickard comes off the field during a recent game with the Chi-Town Cream. Pickard, a Goshen High School senior, is playing this summer with the Chicago area elite travel team.
Photo Supplied Catcher Travis Pickard (leftt) meets on the mound during Chi-Town Cream game. Pickard, a Goshen High School senior, is playing this summer with the Chicago area elite travel team.
The Goshen High School senior is spending his summer playing for an elite Chicago area 18U baseball team — the Chi-Town Cream — and his father, Jim, is along for the ride.
“It’s real fun up here,” says Travis, one of the team’s two regular catchers. “It’s a real great baseball experience. We’ve got a lot of D-I players. The last two tournaments, there were tons of scouts.”
Travis is having so much fun that he skipped a family cruise to stay with the baseball team.
The younger Pickard is on the same squad with four players who were chosen in the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — shortstop Kevin Ross (eighth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates) and left-handed pitchers Ryan Borucki (15th round by the Toronto Blue Jays), Alex Young (32nd round by the Texas Rangers) and Brett Lilek (37th by the Seattle Mariners).
Ross is a University of Michigan recruit, Borucki — Iowa, Young — Texas Christian and Lilek — Arizona State.
Besides Chicagoland kids, the Cream roster features talent from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New York and more.
When the team is not traveling to places like Atlanta or Denver, Travis and Jim share a house in Highland Park, not far from where Michael Jordan once lived, with Tuscon’s Alex Verdugo and his father.
“The competition is great and we get to catch a lot of Cubs games, usually Row 2, behind the batter’s box,” says Jim.
Travis got a chance to try out for the team through Greg Kloosterman. The former minor league pitcher, Central High School, Bethel College and Bristol American Legion Post 143 standout was coaching a travel team in the Chicago suburbs before recently taking a job in the Pittsburgh area. Kloosterman saw Pickard play last summer for coach Jim Treadway’s Post 143 team and recommended him to Cream manager Chuck Reeder. A spring break tryout landed him a spot on the elite team.
“Greg opened the door for Travis,” says Jim of Kloosterman’s influence.
“He’s a good kid,” says Reeder of his catcher and sometimes second or third baseman.
Reeder, a commodity trader away from the diamond, has his roots in 16U baseball. When he was asked by his former players to start an 18U team four years ago, he knew he was entering a very competitive area in the Chicago area.
To attract the best talent from around the area and the country, he does not charge players to be on the team.
That’s right. Reeder picks up the whole tab.
“It’s unusual alright,” says Reeder. “But I thought I had to do something different.”
Reeder is a long-time 16-inch softball player. His team is called Cream so he gave that name to his travel baseball squad.
The Cream plays high school and American Legion teams in the Chicago area during the weekdays, but those games are treated mostly like practice and the best pitchers are not used.
The real focus is the eight travel team tournaments — Indianapolis, Lombard, Ill., Ann Arbor, Mich., East Cobb, Ga., DeKalb, Ill., Bloomington, Ill., Indianapolis and Denver. The Cream won at Lombard and defended its title at Ann Arbor. The Cream has reigned in its last two appearances in Denver.
The Cream came through the prestigious East Cobb wooden bat tournament at 5-2, bringing the summer loss total to just three.
Jim Pickard has been away from home since the last day of school all but a few days. He has stopped to pick up wife, Lori, and head to the next tournament.
Both of Jim and Lori Pickard’s sons are away playing baseball this summer. Troy, the older brother of Travis, is playing in a men’s league in the Lansing, Mich., area, and also working on the Michigan State University paint crew.