Mike Dickson understands the value of tradition.
The Gloucester County College head baseball coach has been associated with tradition-laden programs for the better part of 17 years. Tradition had plenty to do with his decision to attend Gloucester Catholic High School, where he was a part of the storied program's first Diamond Classic title and a state title in 1996. He participated in Brooklawn American Legion, which has a pair of World Series titles, and then coached at Rowan, when the Profs made a trip to the Division III World Series in 2004.
"It's why I applied for this job," Dickson said. "I knew the tradition that had been established here. When you are a part of a program like this, with this type of history, you know what is expected of you, but that in reality, more is expected of you."
On Wednesday night in Texas, Gloucester County defeated host Tyler Junior College, 5-4, in 10 innings to clinch the sixth National Junior College Division III World Series title in program history. The Roadrunners (43-2) went 4-0 in the eight-team tournament.
Tyler (47-14), which plays a schedule loaded with Division I and Division II junior college opponents, lost only twice this year to a Division III team - Gloucester in the double-elimination World Series tournament.
"It's an amazing feeling to win this, especially when you beat the No. 2 team in the nation twice within a week in their stadium," said Gateway product Nick Alloway, who went 10-1 with a 2.79 ERA this year. "When you choose Gloucester County, you do it knowing the history. You know that going here the expectations are higher and that you will be a better player because of it."
This group of Roadrunners faced a daunting challenge after Gloucester failed to reach the World Series in 2009. The six titles are impressive but even more telling is the fact that Gloucester has reached the World Series in 16 out of 19 years, making the final 11 times.
"This is the best decision I've ever made," said Mike Ney, a Buena graduate who finished his career with a school-record 15th save as he threw the final pitch of the season, setting off an on-field celebration. "I've grown as a person and as a player tremendously over the past 2 years and I can't believe there is another situation or school where that could have happened for me."
"I knew from the start of the year this group was special in that it had a camaraderie about it," Dickson said. "First off, you have to have talent and we do. But even with that, you have to have a common goal. Everyone on this team cared about each other and wanted to win together, down to the last guy on our bench. If you don't have that, you have a bunch of individuals and you can't win that way."
Gloucester entered the year focused and with only one objective but even with that, the final moments were a bit of a blur.
"We talked about it but it didn't sink in until the last inning," St. Augustine product Alexi Colon said. "We were in the outfield looking at each other when we realized we were about to win the title."
"I only know what happened because I saw the film," catcher Jim Best said. "I don't remember it.
"Look, this game was the reason I chose Gloucester County. Last year I went to Hofstra and that didn't work out so, I live in Medford [where he attended Shawnee] and Burlington County is much closer. But I knew about the tradition here and that's why I chose to make a 40-minute commute every day.
"It was worth it."
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