A Craig teen who dreamed of playing baseball in Australia made the trip Down Under with the help of family and friends.
Anthony Flores, 13, started the school year going door to door in the afternoons selling T-shirts, hats, gourmet cookie dough and candy bars, trying to raise $3,200 for the trip. He had been invited by High Country Baseball, which organizes teams and arranges tournaments with teams in an Australian youth league.
But when the sales were adding up more slowly than the deadline allowed, Anthony and his mother, Rachel Flores, tried a different route.
They sent out more than 50 letters to family members and friends, described the situation and asked for a tax-deductible donation.
"We've lived in a bunch of different states," Rachel Flores said. "I got out the address book and sent out 52 letters."
They sent letters to Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, Wisconsin and Idaho.
The response was overwhelming. The donations went to High Country Baseball, which kept track of the growing sum.
"We would check our e-mail and see it rising," Rachel said.
Anthony Flores father, Hector Flores, works at Key Energy Service. The final boost for Anthony Flores' trip came from a donation from the company.
Anthony Flores left for Australia on Christmas Day. After a 17-hour flight from Denver to Los Angeles to Sidney, he arrived in the Southern Hemisphere, where it was summertime.
Anthony Flores and his baseball team immediately began practicing and played three games the day after they arrived. The team played multiple games a day for nearly two weeks, and took fifth place out of 11 teams in the tournament.
Anthony Flores said he was impressed by the sportsmanship of his opponents, the Australian players.
After the opposing teams shook hands following each game, the Australian team did something Anthony Flores wasn't used to.
"They stand in front of their dugout and clap for us," Anthony Flores said. Then, the opposing team thanked the umpires, the scorekeeper and the fans.
"They're really respectful kids," Rachel Flores said.
Anthony Flores stayed with a host family while in Australia.
"They wanted me to feel comfortable, so they cooked a lot of American dinners," Anthony Flores said.
They catered to his American appetite and didn't even make him eat Vegemite. Although the fermented yeast extract spread is as popular in Australia as peanut butter is in the United States, Anthony Flores didn't have to eat the stuff. One taste was enough for him to decide Vegemite isn't for him. He brought back some single-serving packets as a souvenir.
One day, he went to the beach and took some surfing lessons. Anthony Flores had only seen the ocean once before, on a trip to California.
He spent New Year's Eve in Sidney, where he and his teammates watched three simultaneous fireworks displays from a central vantage point.
Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org