One fact stood out to me after completing the arduous 14-hour drive to Cooperstown, New York. The Upper Deck Cougars baseball team would travel any distance to participate in the sport they have a deep passion for and they would always compete at a high level no matter what the circumstances were. One week ago, the 12-year-old Upper Deck Cougars baseball team received the opportunity to take part in the prestigious Cooperstown Dreams Park tournament located in the baseball capital of the world. The unique part about this tournament is that it basically gives these players a real-life experience that is extremely comparable to the daily life of a Major League Baseball player. For starters, each player and coach stays together in the barracks of Dreams Park, which are essentially personal clubhouses for each team that contain bunk-beds and showers. Players are forced to follow a strict dress code on the field and on the property of Dreams Park. In games, players must have their shirts tucked in and their socks up to their knees to be allowed to participate in the game. If players wanted to visit their families, they must be officially signed out of the facility and they must be brought back before their next game or before curfew, which is at 10:30 P.M. every night. The fields that are featured at the facility are some of the best that I have ever seen and they look similar to Major League ballparks. The grass is neatly cut and quite green while the dirt is raked after each game that is played. Each field is only 200 feet long, making the games subject to a multitude of home runs. What I enjoyed most about the rules of the tournament was the fact that each game did not have an annoying time limit and that the teams were allowed to play in the rain as long as there was no lightning. Games that were rained out were often made-up during the same day. It was clear that the teams were there to truly play baseball. The tournament also features an amazing opening and closing ceremonies program. During the opening ceremonies, each team is announced and applauded for by the nearly 5,000 fans in attendance. The founder of Cooperstown Dreams Park, Louis A. Presutti, made a speech about the story behind the creation of this magnificent complex and his speech touched the hearts of every fan on hand. To cap it off, two men who carried the American flag and the Cooperstown Dreams Park flag paraglided onto the field after jumping out of an airplane. This feat “wowed the crowd” and it also meant that the skills competitions were about to begin. There are four different events that involve hitting, fielding, running, and throwing, which are some of the most important skills that a baseball player needs to master. These events showcase players with extraordinary talent and skill level who compete for the opportunity to move on to the championship round. Although the Cougars did not qualify for the final round in any of these events, they still managed to win four games out of eight while being ranked 32nd out of 104. Each player performed to the best of their abilities and it showed in their on-the-field performance. One player hit three home runs in one game, another hit a clutch grand slam, and each pitching performance was spectacular. It seemed as if each parent, coach, and player were all pleased that they were able to attend this tournament, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity for every player. What made this tournament even more enjoyable was the fact that the team did well against some tough teams from the Southeastern and Southwestern United States. When teams from Illinois compete in national tournaments like this, they are usually blown-out and they leave in disgrace. I am happy to say that this was not the case with the Upper Deck Cougars. The team is coached by former Major League Baseball player Mark Doran and baseball guru John Kramer. Congratulations on a successful tournament and good luck for the remainder of the season.