Lyle’s Benders second in nation

Published 8:42 pm Friday, July 16, 2010

A meeting and autograph session with Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame first baseman Steve Garvey, the recognition of him and his teammates at a College World Series game and a second-place national youth baseball tournament finish were all part of the Omaha, Neb., experience for Keith Lyle Jr.

That is where young Lyle and his parents, Keith and Tami Lyle of Bainbridge, were when his North Florida Benders 11-year-old and under travel baseball team of Blounstown, Fla., were playing in a national tournament in conjunction with the College World Series.

He and his Benders teammates, who are coached by Blounstown High School Tigers coach Emory Horne, played two Colorado teams in the tournament and an outfielder on one of them was Steve Garvey’s son.

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Young Lyle, a catcher and third baseman whose team qualified for the national tournament by winning a tournament in Lake City, Fla., had an outstanding tournament at the plate. During a 15-0 victory over the Panthers Black team from Colorado, he went four for five, banging out two singles and two doubles.

The Benders posted three convincing victories on their way to the championship game with the champion Utah team.

They opened play June 21 blanking the Panthers Black team from California 16-0 and the Silver team from Colorado 15-0.

Young Lyle had a single in a 13-1 victory over the Desert Longhorn team from Colorado, which Garvey’s son played for.

The Lyles talked about what a positive influence and inspiration Garvey was to their son and the other young players at the national tournament.

“Steve Garvey is just a class guy,” Lyle Sr. said. “He talked to the kids about the importance of sportsmanship and character.

“He was so nice and he signed autographs for anyone who asked. People even walked up and requested autographs while he was watching his son’s game and he graciously obliged them.”

On June 24, young Lyle and his teammates were recognized at the College World Series game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Oklahoma Sooners. The Gamecocks won 3-2 and went on to win the national championship.

In the tournament championship game on Friday, the Benders were edged 11-8 by the champion Utah team in a game that could have gone either way. Young Lyle and each of his teammates received an individual second-place national tournament plaque.

“We were only able to attend one College World Series game because there were so many rainouts in our tournament, but it was a good one,” Lyle Sr. said. “There were 54 different fields that tournament games were being played on, so we had to check every morning to determine where our team was playing.”

In June 2011, young Lyle and his Benders teammates will travel to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., where they will play in a tournament on the Hall of Fame’s Field of Dreams Field.

They earned their berth in the Cooperstown tournament by winning a Road to Cooperstown Tournament in Dothan, Ala.

While in Omaha, the Lyles visited the Omaha zoo and on the way home they visited the Gateway To The West Arch in St. Louis, Mo.