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Baseball season not over for four W. Pasco players

Johnny Wirick, Joe Carey, Tom Dillon and Billy Phillips, members of the District 12 All-Star team, are still battling for a championship.

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Just because the Little League season came to an end last week for the remaining West Pasco teams, it does not mean that the season is over for every West Pasco player.

Four of them -- Johnny Wirick, Tommy Dillon, Joe Carey and Billy Phillips -- will travel to Boynton Beach this weekend for the Senior Big League Sectional championships.

The four are part of the District 12 All-Star team which defeated teams from Fort Myers and Seminole this week to qualify for sectionals. The District 12 All-Star team is made up of the best players from the district, with the majority coming from the Dunedin and Palm Harbor area.

Wirick, Dillon, Carey and Phillips all played for the West Pasco A team during the regular season (West Pasco also had a B team). They were nominated by coach Bill Phillips (Billy's dad) and chosen by All-Star coach Dave Eggers of Dunedin.

The remaining county players offer a varied mix of local talent.

Wirick was a pitcher and infielder last year for the Gulf High team, while Dillon played outfield and Phillips caught for River Ridge.

Carey played for Ridgewood in 1999, his senior year, and attends the University of Florida, where he doesn't play baseball. But apparently, he has retained most of the skills that made him a Ram starter.

"We all know each other," Dillon said."We've all played together."

The All-Star team, however, throws together players that haven't played together. Dillon said he "doesn't even know all the player's names yet" and sticks with his Pasco compadres.

Wirick, on the other hand, played senior bigs last year and is familiar with many of his new teammates.

"I'm actually good friends with a few of them," Wirick said.

Wirick was one of the county's unsung stars last year, putting together a solid season with the Bucs. This summer, he hit just under .500 during the regular season, and has improved as a player.

While Dillon thinks the summer season is more relaxing than the high school season, but not as stiff competition-wise, Wirick prefers the summer ball because it allows him more flexibility in developing his overall skills, and gives him a chance to meet new players.

"It's more fun, I think," Wirick said. "It's pretty competitive because it's an all-star team. I like it better.

"I've played everywhere this summer, except catcher. You get to play more positions and get more exposure. I think I found out this summer that I'm a better outfielder (which I didn't play in the spring) that I thought I was. That's been fun."

But the best thing about the summer, according to Wirick, is the travel.

The team left for the Fort Lauderdale area today for a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday in the double-elimination tournament. If they emerge as champs, they will move on to South Carolina for regionals, and then maybe even to Arizona for the World Series.

"The travel is the best part," Wirick said. "Staying in hotels and stuff, I like that.

"It would be so cool if we got to go out of state to play. And the World Series is on TV, so that's cool. We have a real good team. If we keep on hitting, we should win it all."

Like most players entering their senior year, Wirick is thinking about college and beyond. His mother Louise thinks the further the team goes, the more scouts that will come out to watch, and the better chance her son and the others have of being noticed where otherwise they wouldn't.

"It gives them a chance to get a little exposure," she said.

And even a little exposure is bound to help out three seniors-to-be hungry for college scholarships, and Carey, who is thinking about trying out for the Florida team next year, every little bit of play helps.

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