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Rough-Cut Diamonds
Rick Reilly
June 13, 2005
For eight years I coached the world-famous Nuts in the Catholic Youth Baseball League (team cheer: Go-o-o-o-o-o Nuts!) on a field that would have to be improved to resemble a nuclear missile test site.
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June 13, 2005

Rough-cut Diamonds

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--MICHAEL HUDEC, 10, NORTH ROYALTON, OHIO

In our outfield ... there are a lot of holes where critters live. Sometimes we get distracted by a critter poppin' out to root for the home team. Maybe if we had bleachers, the critters would cheer us on with our parents.

--AUSTIN REBECK, 11, NORTON, OHIO

Our ballpark needs gates because the crazy neighborhood dogs come and take the balls away and we have to stop the game.

--RACHEL ZAMORA, 8, GRAFORD, TEXAS

The best of the worst came from Duncan Schaper, 10, of Ohio Township, Pa. (outside Pittsburgh), who asked for the money because the mound, fence, parking lot and Port-A-Potty at his field were swept away last year by a flood caused by Hurricane Ivan. Duncan didn't even want the field fixed for himself. "I just felt bad that the kids younger than me weren't going to get to play on a nice field," he says.

They will now. Duncan won the $20,000 renovation--plus a clinic with Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Carlton Fisk and a visit to the White House on June 30 for his whole team. Fourteen other finalists each won $5,000 to be spent on their fields. Who says writing doesn't pay?

"It's awesome," Duncan says. "I didn't think I'd win. I just thought it was a chance in a million."

But the most amazing essay didn't win a thing.

My dream is to be in the major leagues, even though I've had 10 heart surgeries. I would love to have a real pitcher's mound and for the holes to be filled in so my weak left leg from my stroke doesn't get caught and make me trip. I can throw the ball 43 mph, on good days. Standing on a solid pitcher's mound when pretending would bring me closer to my dream.

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