Once a Royal, always a Royal
It was two phone calls that brought two former teammates together for a summer of baseball.
The first came on May 27 from Ellsworth Community College head baseball coach Travis Akre to Sebastian Holte-Mancera, an Ellsworth player and a former Woodbury High School catcher. It was a crazy 24 hours, but Holte-Mancera was excited to join the Lakeshore Chinooks.
The second call came on June 3 while Ronald Sweeny III was fishing with his grandfather. After a frustrating start of the summer with finding a summer baseball team, it was a relief for Sweeny III when he received the phone call to play for the Lakeshore Chinooks.
These two calls brought two players who played together at Woodbury High School from 2014-16 back together with the Lakeshore Chinooks for a summer of baseball.
"I was excited to hear that Ronnie was coming to the team," Holte-Mancera said. "We created many fun memories during our high school years, so I was excited to create more this upcoming summer."
The Lakeshore Chinooks are part of the Northwoods League, which is a summer league that allows baseball players to play every day and improve their game. The team has a combination of Division I, II and III players as well as JUCO players all hoping to take a step closer to their dream of being selected in the MLB Draft.
The Northwoods League has produced players like Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson. For Sweeny III and Holte-Mancera, that's the dream. The ability to play in the MLB someday.
"The first step is to make a step to the Division I or II level and continue learning about the game," Sweeny III said. "Eventually, it would be a dream to be chosen by a MLB team and play in the big leagues someday."
Holte-Mancera just finished his second year at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. During this season, he batted .384 and had seven home runs, 51 RBI, 57 runs with a .515 on base percentage. Sweeny III completed his first season at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. After one season, he batted .375 and had four home runs, 34 RBI, 26 runs with a .475 on base percentage. Iowa Western also made it to the World Series last season, which gave Sweeny III an opportunity to play more games and gain more experience.
The two might've just finished their college seasons, but Woodbury head baseball coach Kevin McDermott remembers their contributions as Royals during their high school years.
For Holte-Mancera, he remembers him coming to the team as a freshman and it worked out perfectly. The Royals were light in the catching department and McDermott said they could use another catcher.
He became one of the first freshman in Woodbury baseball history to be a part of the varsity team. Holte-Mancera had competition from a junior, but won the battle and the junior actually left the team. Therefore, he was the only catcher on the roster and McDermott decided to go with only one, but was worried.
That season was similar to this spring where games were cancelled early and it became a lot of doubleheaders in a short period. Holte-Mancera didn't care and caught every inning of every game that season and hit over .300.
"He showed the gritty and tough mentality that we strive for our players to reach as baseball players," McDermott said. "These two players were two of the top five hitters in Woodbury history, no doubt in my mind, and they both were left-handed hitters which was interesting."
Sweeny III is a year younger than Holte-Mancera, but McDermott and the Woodbury baseball community knew his name well before his high school years.
"He was the guy," McDermott said. "Ronnie was the best power hitter the program ever had."
It took a season for Sweeny III to realize his potential as a hitter and a baseball player, but once it connected he was a powerful baseball player. After his freshman season, Sweeny III joined the VFW team and McDermott taught him many lessons as a player and as a person that led to three very successful years for him as a Royal.
Once his sophomore year started, Sweeny III made a great turnaround, changing his hitting technique and also changing his statistics.
"If you know Woodbury, we teach each player how to bunt because it's an important part to the game of baseball," McDermott said. "Ronnie didn't bunt much for us at Woodbury because I knew with one swing he could add another run on the board."
McDermott said he knew these two players would make an impact on any college team and he's beyond proud of the accomplishments the two have made during their first year or two on each of their college teams.
As of June 28, Holte-Mancera is batting .241 with nine RBI's and three stolen bases in 25 games and 79 at-bats. Sweeny III has only played 13 games and 49 at-bats this season and is batting .238 with one RBI and one stolen base.
The Lakeshore Chinooks plays its league until the middle of August and then the next step will take place with finding a college baseball team for the school year. The goal for both of them is to play past two seasons at community colleges, but nothing is solidified yet.
"These two represent Woodbury baseball and the game of baseball so well," McDermott said. "They both respect the game so much and it shows in their work on and off the field. I can't wait to see what these two do in the near future as baseball players and as people."