Built to Last: SS Astros' five-year existence equals national tournaments
From Staff Reports

July 22, 2004 - When Casey McMahan and Chase Helm were 11 years old and just finishing their first year in Little League All-Stars, they decided they wanted to create a select team of their teammates their age. They picked the name "Astros," and the Sulphur Springs Astros were born.

Some five years and 250 games later, they prepare with the team this week to play in their seventh National Championship or World Series. The team begins play Monday in the USSSA National Tournament in Kissimmee, Fla., in a field of 36 of the best teams from around the country.

The Astros qualified for the tournament by winning the USSSA state championship in the fall. At nationals, they will be playing in the Houston Astros exhibition stadium.

As Helm and McMahan pointed out, "We wanted to play the best to get better ourselves. What once was a fear to play the best became a challenge to be the best."

The nucleus of the original team still remains, including the entire infield. Helm is at first base with McMahan at shortstop, Josh Riley at second base and Tyler Rhoades at third. Alex Aguilar pitches and plays left field.

Some of the original players have come and gone and some have gone and then come back. Catcher Trey Neighbors and pitcher/outfielder Shawn Hayes joined the team the second year and still remain. Taylor Carter, Landon May and Cody Withers have been with the Astros for three years. Cameron Bara joined two years ago, Jayden Spencer this season, and Brad Payne and Seth Northcutt rejoined the team this year.

In its five-year run, the Astros have won one national championship and two state championships, plus been state runner-up twice and have captured at least 10 tournament titles. Last year, they were fourth and fifth at two national championships, respectively, and they are the current USSSA state champs.

Charles Helm, James McMahan, Cory Horton and Steve Littlefield coach the team.

"We've come a long way since that first fall season when we won only two or three games," Charles Helm said. "In select ball play, there are three recognized national championships, and this year, the Astros qualified for all three by winning their respective tournaments."

He has this philosophy about his team's success: "You find a group of young men who have a desire to learn and to win, and you get out of their way. That sounds a lot like making it in the business world today. I guess things don't change that much as you get older."

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