HAWTHORN WOODS — A unique, professionally coached youth baseball club was honored Monday night at the Hawthorn Woods Village Board meeting.
The local teams are enjoying their most successful season since the Hawthorn Woods-based Lake County Stars club was founded in 2007.
Lake County Stars takes boys ages 11 to 17 across the region playing in various tournaments. The 15-year-old team and the 17-year-old have won prestigious tournaments this season, including the Northern Illinois University Midwest Madness and the Kenosha Classic competitions.
“This year’s team has a nice balance of talent in it, so everyone does well,” said Dan Gregory, who is the head coach of the 15-year-old team.
With the younger teams, Gregory said the goal is to build up skills so each player is able to make his high school baseball team. For the players already in high school, the goal of the program is to emphasize exposure for college and professional baseball opportunities.
The Lake County Stars attracts players from all over the area, including Barrington, Lake Zurich, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, Vernon Hills and McHenry. The organization, which boasts six teams, recruit coaches with high levels of professional and collegiate experience.
“In the past couple of years, this is probably the best team we’ve been able to put together,” said Colton Wagner, 17, of Lake Zurich. “I think the coaches played a very big part in it. They teach the proper ways to play the game. They just know the game really well.”
The 17-year-old team has traveled extensively this season, with tournaments in Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin. Lake County Stars teams play up to 55 games per season.
“I love this team,” said Danny Krueger, 17, of Hawthorn Woods. “The talent on our team makes it a lot of fun. You always know you’re going to be on a quality team. It’s really just a great experience for a baseball player.”
The club’s last tournament of the season will be held the last weekend of July at Notre Dame in Indiana.
Nick Jones, 17, of Barrington, also attributed much of the program’s success to the coaches. He highlighted the way they emphasize a variety of skills.
“They’ve done a tremendous job for the team,” said Jones. “The first tournament we actually won the whole thing, so we were undefeated. It’s good to have diversity and different skill sets on the field.”
As head coach, Gregory said he has enjoyed being able to pass on his baseball knowledge to all six Lake County Stars teams. The teams are divided into ages 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17 year olds.
“I like being able to pass on the knowledge of the game,” said Gregory. “The whole goal of the program is to have professionals coach the boys.”
Tryouts for the Lake County Stars take place over the first two weekends in August at the Community Park baseball fields in Hawthorn Woods.