At 10 years old, Aubrey Melloy will be one of the youngest players in the field when the Majors Little League Baseball Southwest Region Tournament starts Thursday in Waco, Texas.
And she also is the only girl among the eight teams in the field that also includes state champions from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Louisiana and Mississippi.
“It’s cool because I’m playing with kids older than me and I’m actually playing well against them,” she said, adding she prefers baseball to softball because “I get to show the boys how it’s done.”
Melloy and her teammates from Albuquerque’s Eastdale Little League are looking to advance to the fabled Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“It’s very nerve wracking because I know that if we mess up it could mess it up for the whole tournament,” she said. “We just want to keep it going.”
Melloy is a catcher who roots for the New York Yankees and whose favorite player is slugger Aaron Judge.
But while Judge is a slugger, Melloy’s game is quite different.
“I don’t really hit for power, I hit for contact and balance,” she said.
As for her age and gender, they’re not much of a concern.
“It doesn’t really bother me. I’m used to it because I’ve played always against kids older than me,” she said. “And I don’t worry about being a girl but I’m excited that I’m going to be the only girl there.”
The players for the North Valley Little League that start the juniors regional for the first time ever, are pretty excited themselves since they will be playing at New Mexico’s Santa Ana Star Field starting Friday for a chance to reach their age group’s World Series in Taylor, Michigan.
“It’s going to be fun, exciting. And we’re at home,” said shortstop Elias Saiz. “It’s our state. It’s a next-level thing for our team and all the players on there.”
With Albuquerque as regional host, the district champions got the automatic bid, with Mile High also earning a berth as the state champion.
“When we were coming into the district championship, our expectations were high already and we knew we could win that,” North Valley coach Ernie Saiz said. “I didn’t know we were going to have this bye, but expectations for this team are high, endless. These guys can do so much. Battle and win and just be great. Now that we’re here in this situation, we want to win and we want to go the World Series.”
Of course, reaching the World Series in Williamsport is the dream of every Little Leaguer, and Melloy’s teammate and fellow catcher, J Hathaway, is looking forward to the chance.
“We’re really eager and determined to win this tournament so we can make it there,” he said.
Eastdale has a long history of success at the state level and was where Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman played, a legacy that head coach Kevin Hathaway keeps alive with his squad.
“We talk about the prior teams and we talk about the future because this team is so young so the opportunity with this is great with seven of the kids here with us possibly to be back here next year,” he said. “The kids are well aware of the (state) banners hanging in the board room for Eastdale. We try to prepare them what to expect at each level and have some of the older kids who have played at Eastdale chat with them when they can. We’re super proud of playing in the Little League that Alex Bregman played in, of course.”