LYNN — Anthony Nikolakakis still has vivid memories of the Babe Ruth 15-year-old World Series he played in two years ago with a group of longtime Lynn Little League teammates. The Lynners did their best in representing their city on a national stage in North Dakota but fell a bit short of bringing a banner home.
Now they’re getting a second chance, as Nikolakakis and the 16-18-year-old Lynn Babe Ruth All-Star team’s heading to the World Series in Jamestown, New York this weekend. And Nikolakakis hopes to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Nikolakakis said of the opportunity to play in the upcoming World Series. “After our 15-year-old year we thought that was our last chance to play together. It’s really awesome. We’ve been playing together since we were all 10-year-olds. To be able to do this twice with this group of guys is just incredible.
“It’s a brotherhood more than a team,” Nikolakakis added. “All the kids on our team are close, especially the group that has played together since Little League. We have a great atmosphere and a competitive atmosphere. The coaches (Leon Elwell and Al Donovan) do a great job too. When it’s time to work we know how to buckle down and get ready to work.”
Nikolakakis, a first/third baseman who spent two years on the varsity baseball team at St. Mary’s, has a strong recollection of the World Series run two summers ago. He launched a grand-slam in that tournament.
“I definitely remember getting there,” Nikolakakis, who’ll continue his baseball career at Plymouth State, said. “When we got to North Dakota it was different. It was a small airport. It was nice being there with the team. It was fun being there. We played great baseball. I remember hitting a grand-slam out there. It was a fun time in general.”
The Lynners haven’t played a game, aside from a scrimmage against the North Shore Giants, since last Tuesday’s regional championship against Cape Cod. For the past week, the team has balanced its time between two main focuses.
On the field, the focus is on staying sharp with fundamentals at the forefront.
“We’re just sharpening up,” Nikolakakis said. “We’re working on the areas we’ve worked on all season, the fundamental things. We’re preparing for the (eight hour) bus ride. We’re preparing for the competition, it’ll be a lot better than what we’ve seen this summer. We’re working on shooting the ball the opposite way, small ball, getting bunts down. A lot of fundamentals and mental things.”
Off the field, the focus is on being mentally prepared for the competition they’ll play against in Jamestown.
“We’re definitely expecting to go in there and do some damage,” Nikolakakis said. “We have to have respect for the competition because we’ll face some great competition. It’s not a vacation, it’s a business trip. The competition will be good but it’s good to push ourselves a little bit.”
The extra rest works to Nikolakakis’ favor, as the infielder’s nursing a knee injury he suffered four years ago as a freshman football player at St. Mary’s. He recently underwent a MRI that revealed a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. Nikolakakis will require surgery to repair the damage but he elected to postpone the procedure until after the World Series.
“I’m not 100 percent there but it’s not affecting my ability,” Nikolakakis said. “I’m just pushing through it, it doesn’t really cross my mind during the games.”
Although the Babe Ruth season has challenged him physically and kept his schedule busy, there’s nothing Nikolakakis would rather do this summer than gear up for another World Series run.
“Playing this much baseball takes a toll on your body,” Nikolakakis said. “Playing through an injury has been tough but there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than playing with these guys. My teammates and the coaches make it fun. It’s not just baseball, it’s a routine for me and it’s a part of the summer. It’d feel weird not playing baseball.”
Lynn’s goal, Nikolakakis said, is a clear one.
“Representing Lynn on a national stage is as good as it gets,” Nikolakakis said. “We go down there to represent the city, the state and New England. Getting that opportunity when I was 15, and doing it again now, it’s incredible. The city has done an incredible job helping us. Going down there and bringing back some hardware for the city is our goal.”