Ben Treutler wanted nothing more than to beat his current team while playing with his old team.
He had a chance, but was thrown out at third base for the final out of the ballgame as the Grand Haven Young Bucs U14 baseball team edged the Hanoi (Vietnam) Capitals, 4-3, in a friendly contest at Grand Haven High School on Monday.
Treutler, who grew up in Vietnam and played baseball with the Capitals for the past several years, has since moved to Grand Haven and now plays with the Young Bucs.
His Bucs’ coaches let him play with the Capitals, whose head coach is Ben’s father, Tom Treutler.
“It was fun to play with them,” Ben Treutler said. “It’s always fun to play with them.”
Treutler found himself on first base with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. He advanced to second on a passed ball, and when the Bucs’ catcher was slow to reach the ball, Treutler tried for third. He tried to slide around the tag but was called out, ending the game.
“Two outs, last inning, a one run difference, you’ve got to take a few risks,” he said with a smile. “I thought I could make it, but the Grand Haven Bucs’ defense is like a stone wall.”
The game featured several fantastic defensive plays by both teams, as well as some clutch hitting.
Grand Haven scored all four of its runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to lead 4-1.
The Capitals battled back with two runs in the top of the sixth, but the Bucs got out of the inning thanks to a few sparkling defensive plays, including a throw to the plate to save a run.
Ben Treutler said it’s incredible to see how far his old friends from Vietnam have come on the baseball diamond.
“They don’t want me to say this, but a year ago, they had a tournament in their home town and they got mercied almost every game,” he said. “They were pretty beaten up. But now, they’ve improved to the point where I think they’re just as good as any American team.
“It’s exciting. They’ve come a long ways.”
Baseball was a virtual unknown in Hanoi before the Treutler family introduced the game to a handful of players half-a-decade ago.
“Five years ago, we only had six guys playing and we were playing with whiffle balls,” Tom Treutler said. “Now they’ve played 60 international games — 65 after this — and they know how to play, where to throw the ball.
“Still, when we do things in Hanoi, it’s more of a scrimmage. Here, with real umpires, it’s more pressure. With baseball, you have to play a lot of games to get used to the pressure. That’s something this will help us with.”
After spending more than a week training at Florida State University, the Capitals played a pair of games in a tournament in West Ottawa this past weekend, winning one and tying the other.
Capitals’ shortstop Phu An said he’s learned a lot through the game of baseball.
“Baseball teach me lot of things, friendships,” the youngster said. “It teaches me a lot out of my life, respect to the coaches, the opponents. And I got healthier.
“It was wonderful coming to Michigan for our second experience in USA. It was great. I think we were a little over excited (in Monday’s game) and let them get over us, but we play a nice game for our last game in Michigan.”
The Capitals came to the United States two years ago for a tournament in San Diego.
Today, they play to attend the Detroit Tigers’ game against the Chicago White Sox before taking part in a tournament in Chicago later this week.
For Tom Treutler, it was a thrill to bring his team to his home town for a game.
“We’re really excited,” he said. “It was a great game, a really competitive game. Both teams played hard. The game ended with a guy sliding into third base, his jersey all dirty. What more can you say? It was fantastic.”
Treutler’s favorite moments, however, came before and after the game, as kids from the two teams worked side-by-side to prep the field.
“I like this, the kids working together,” Treutler said. “It’s teamwork. This was a special game. There’s a competitive fire out there, but today was more about friendship.”
Grand Haven coach Bryan Sandberg wasn’t sure how to approach Monday’s exhibition. He decided to stick with his regular lineup and defensive alignment, and he’s glad he did.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, what approach to take, so I went with our regular lineup, and that was great, because they’re a very good team,” Sandberg said. “We knew right away in warm-ups. You could see that they could throw, they could catch, and they were athletic.”