- Associated Press - Monday, August 25, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - From Rapid City to Indianapolis, then back to Rapid City, and now on to South Williamsport, Pennsylvania - Joe Hartford and his wife, Deb, have been road warriors as they follow their son, Colton, in his journey to the Little League World Series.

The Hartfords are like many of the families of the Canyon Lake All-Star players, who are now on a prolonged adventure, one that brings them memories of a lifetime on the baseball diamond, but also serves as an extended family vacation. It also brings them a few hardships along the way, with the grind of travel, the costs of paying for it, and the stress of being away from their homes and jobs, the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/1mn6ke0 ) reported.

And yet, no one is complaining, even after Canyon Lake was ousted from the tournament Aug. 16 in a 7-5 loss to the team from Washington state on a controversial final play.

“I think we have become a family in a short order,” Hartford said. “It has been a lot of fun.”

This hasn’t just been a weekend jaunt to Williamsport for the Canyon Lake families. It’s been a journey that began a month and a half ago when the all-star teams were announced. The family bond between players, brothers, sisters, moms, dads and even grandpas and grandmas started in Rapid City in early July.

“When the all-star team was named, the coaches really wanted to get the boys to become a team quickly, so we had practices twice a day and activities during the day; we had barbeques at night with the families,” said Troy Nesbit, father of All-Star Bridger Nesbit. “A lot of the families would go down to watch practice in Rapid, so as a result, at the beginning of July when the all-star team was named, we’ve done nothing but spend time together. We’ve become a very close group.”

The All-Stars won the South Dakota/North Dakota District tournament to advance to the Midwest Regionals in Indianapolis. There, nine days later, they were whisked off to South Williamsport as champions once again.

All the while, they were followed by their families.

The Nesbits - all six of them - drove the roughly 1,100 miles to Indianapolis. They then piled into the car again and drove another 500-plus miles to South Williamsport. Along with Troy and his wife, Collette, also on the trip were Bridger’s brothers Chase, Dalton and Jackson, and baby sister Scarlet. Bridger’s grandmother, Wen Nesbit, flew in from Salt Lake City to watch the games.

It’s not exactly as wild as the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s Family Vacation film, but they say it has been an adventure, especially with four kids in a single hotel room.

“We’re getting cabin fever a little bit,” Nesbit said. “Sometimes you just have to get out and do something. We spend a lot of time at the ballpark.”

The Voorhees family, Dawn and her husband Brent, also have driven the distance for the experience with their All-Star son, Cooper. The journey to the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania has been worth it.

“It was an additional nine hours, but well-spent,” Dawn Voorhees said. “It was a beautiful drive.”

For much of the time spent in Indianapolis and Williamsport, the family aspect doesn’t just include immediate family. The entire team and their followers are now one big family.

“We were all in the same hotel in Indianapolis, but now with the difficulty of getting rooms here, we’re a little spread out over three or four hotels,” Nesbit said. “But we try to all get together at night for dinners and these types of things.”

Voorhees said that it’s not only the extended family that they have developed with the players, it’s been time spent with their own families that has made the experience special.

“We were waiting for the Rapid Citians to come back,” Voorhees said. “After we separated a little bit, it was fun to be reunited after being away from each other for a few days.”

For the Canyon Lake All-Stars’ extended families, the vacation of a lifetime doesn’t come without some difficulties - financially and with their home life. Yet, it’s the price they are willing to pay to help their children achieve their dream.

“It is a hardship, no doubt, both with your time and energy, and monetarily,” Hartford said. “But it is definitely worth it. I’m sure we’re not going to look back and regret any of this.”

Just how much is the trip damaging their bank accounts? That will be determined at a later date. “We’re not going to look at anything until next month,” Hartford added with a laugh.

When asked how much the trip is costing, Nesbit could only come up with a generic response of “thousands.”

But consider the high airline prices, gas, food, souvenirs and the last-minute lodging in the small Pennsylvania community. His large hotel room is running about $270 a night.

“It’s kind of like the Sturgis rally in a sense that everyone jacks up their hotel rate. We’re paying the special rate which is probably double of what is normally is,” Nesbit said. “But you wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Not only is this a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Bridger, but it is for our family.”

Voorhees said that financially, they’ll just have to make it work.

“It has not been easy, but it is well worth it,” Voorhees said. “It’s one of those kind of forced vacations that you have to stop and absorb every minute of it because you are here and don’t worry about the little things.”

At some point, the families will return to their normal lives in Rapid City. The children will go back to school, and the parents will return to their jobs.

“I’m sure there are a lot of people wondering when we are coming back,” said Hartford, an optometrist at Rapid City Medical Center.

Nesbit, an anesthesiologist at Rapid City Regional Hospital, said he saved all of his vacation time for the possibility of making this trip. The gamble paid off with the team earning the opportunity to play in the regional tournament and Little League World Series.

“We knew these boys were a talented group, so this would be where we were going,” Nesbit said. “This wasn’t exactly unexpected, although we’re blessed and fortunate to be here.”

Voorhees, a nurse at Rapid City Medical Center, credits and thanks her fellow employees for stepping up and covering for her. She also said that her doctor, Dr. Victoria Finley, has been a huge support.

“It would be hard to be here if you didn’t have that at home,” she said. “The pressure has gone away for this time. I know not everybody has been able to do that, but for the most part, everybody in Rapid City has shown a huge level of support.”

Voorhees said they have been involved in sports with their children in the past, but this journey has been more of an adventure. “I’ve been impressed, I’ve been humbled, I’ve been blessed,” Voorhees said. “It’s been amazing how everybody has come together.”

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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