Jaydon Yancey likes to wear his hair a little long, but it's shaggy even by his standards these days.
"My mom wants to cut it," he said Tuesday morning.
The 13-year-old, who plays third base and pitches for his Meridian youth baseball team, decided he wouldn't cut it as long as his team kept winning. It didn't lose a game at regionals last week.
Now the U12 All Stars are headed this week to the Cal Ripken World Series in Maryland.
Across the country, select youth teams have been chasing similar championship dreams - and the money it takes to get there.
Representing the Pacific Northwest at the World Series is "amazing," Jaydon said, comparing it to the feeling of learning to snowboard and bagging his first deer.
"It's kind of like the first time going to Disneyland - such a thrill," said Cale LaFever, a right fielder and pitcher. The boys will bring Idaho spud pins with them to trade with players from 15 others teams, including six from foreign countries.
The families of the players are at least as excited as the athletes. They want to be there for the kids' big moment - there's a parade, new uniforms, gear from sponsor Under Armour and a crab feast - so they're getting plane tickets, making hotel reservations and coordinating travel plans with relatives near and far.
"It's been a whirlwind of a few days trying to get everything planned," said Landis Rossi, whose son, Peyton, is a first baseman and pitcher.
"I think all the kids have at least one parent going. Most have uncles, aunts and grandparents going," Rossi said. "My parents are going."
The Cal Ripken organization pays for the team's travel, two hotel rooms and some food costs. The players will stay with their parents, so families are paying for those rooms and their travel costs. Rossi estimates the cost would be about $6,000 for two parents and a child to go on the 10-day trip, including plane tickets, hotel, food and car rental.
That's a lot of cash for some families to come up with on short notice. During the regular season, they raised extra money by running concessions and tending fields. With so little time to raise money for this trip, they've set up websites to accept donations and found local businesses willing to donate a portion of sales to support the trip.
Family members of two other Valley youth baseball teams are in the same boat: the Meridian U10 All Stars and East Boise U12 All Stars are representing the Pacific Northwest in Cal Ripken World Series competitions. The Meridian team is going to Florida, while the Boise team is going to Indiana.
Scott Orrock, an assistant coach for East Boise, said he knows of one family that opted to drive to Chicago. The cost per person for plane tickets was around $800, making it prohibitively expensive for some larger families.
"It's definitely a burden," Orrock said.
The Meridian U10 All Stars were at Beef O'Brady's on Tuesday night. The pub and grill agreed to donate 20 percent of proceeds from sales, coach Scott Whiles said. He said the Boise Hawks also helped the team, giving them a signed bat that was raffled off for $1,000.
"We're trying to raise $20,000, and I think we're at $15,000," Whiles said.
Whiles' team will play in a World Series that includes a team from Newtown, Conn. The team received green ribbons to wear on their uniforms to honor the children killed in the Newtown massacre in December.
"We could play them," Whiles said, but the teams are starting the series in different pools.
Participation in America's favorite pastime has grown in the Valley in recent years, said Eric Centers, president of Meridian Youth Baseball & Softball. He estimates there are about 10,000 kids in the Valley who play youth baseball and softball in Little League, Cal Ripken, Babe Ruth and other programs.
Baseball is no longer just a spring and summer sport - fall ball was added four or five years ago, Centers said. When Meridian started fall ball, it had about 100 participants. Now there are more than 300.
The Meridian U12 All Stars are 32-2 going into the World Series. The players say one of the big lessons of the summer is to never give up. They were down 1-0 in the title game at regionals and pulled off a 2-1 win.
"We are really good at staying calm, even if we get down," said Carson Smith, son of coach Marc Smith. "We ended up scratching and clawing our way back in."
Katy Moeller: 377-6413