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East Texas baseball team headed overseas to represent U.S.

By Jimmy Carter jcarter@news-journal.com
July 4, 2013 at 10 p.m.


Spencer Barton already has a plan for his visits to the Colosseum and Vatican City while on a baseball trip to Italy next week.

The former Longview High second baseman and future UT Tyler player heads overseas Monday for a 10-day trip that includes stops in Milan, Florence and Rome while playing on an East-Texas-comprised Team Americas baseball team.

The trip includes off days which will allow the team to visit landmarks in each of the three cities. Barton will be prepared when it comes time to go sight-seeing.

"I've been thinking about this and I know I'm going to bring a camera," Barton said. "But I don't even know how to use the thing. So I'm thinking I'm going to try to take a picture with my phone real quick, then take one with the camera. But I'll definitely be taking a lot of pictures. I'm really interested in history. I have to take extra pictures for my mom too because she doesn't get to go."

Barton and his teammates will also be playing quite a bit of baseball on the trip. Team Americas will play a doubleheader against Italian competition in each of the three cities.

He is part of a locally-comprised team handpicked by coach Phillip Thomas, who runs the Thomas Hitting Academy in Longview. Thomas was selected to coach the team by the Kansas-based Team Americas organization.

He had his pick of talent from around the nation, but opted to stick with the players that make up his Thomas Hitting Academy (THA) STIX baseball team.

"I've either seen all of them play or they've been through here before and I've seen them hit and seen their mannerisms," Thomas said. "And what I told the director was, 'If I had my choice I'd pick some top baseball players. And there's plenty to choose from in East Texas. More importantly, I'm going to choose good people who are going to represent the USA, your organization, my organization and their families the right way.'"

Skylar Hollis (Gilmer), Jack Morris and Tyler Musgrove (Carthage), Landon Brune (Marshall), Jake Brantley (Kilgore), Cameron Grubbs (Jefferson) and Trevor Thomas, Mason Liu, Christopher Chadwick and Chandler Minze (Pine Tree) join Barton on the team.

They've had success while playing as the THA STIX so far this summer, winning two of the four tournaments they've competed in. They hope that can carry over in Italy against teams they've never seen.

"I really don't know the quality of the teams we're playing," Thomas said. "The kids have been asking if these are going to be the Italian teams from the World Baseball Classic. Truthfully, I don't know. I'm guessing there's going to be quality teams because we are coming from the states over there."

Either way, the experience should be memorable.

"It's really crazy," Barton said. "I've never done anything like this before. I'll be trying to soak it all in because I probably won't be going back to that. I'll try to live it up while I'm there."

(Follow Jimmy Carter on Twitter @jimmy__carter)

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