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Bulldog standout makes elite summer squad

Playing baseball for longtime pro scout Bobby McKinney and his Mid Atlantic Pirates Scout Team doesn’t guarantee a young player a college scholarship or pro career, but it’s certainly a promising step for a player with those goals.

King’s Fork junior, soon-to-be senior, Travis Cherry has the opportunity to take advantage of such an opportunity this summer.

Cherry tried out along with 125-150 kids and earned one of 18 spots on the summer roster for the Pirates.

“It’s a scout team. They play in front of a lot of college scouts and some pro scouts,” Cherry said.

The head coach of the Pirates is Jimmy Anderson, a Western Branch grad who went on to a career in the Majors with Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati and Boston. Anderson won a World Series ring with the famous 2004 Red Sox team.

McKinney, officially an assistant for this squad, has been a coach and scout for 23 years. More than 1,100 players have gone on to college programs under McKinney’s guidance. McKinney’s currently a scout for the Atlanta Braves after scouting for Pittsburgh from 1989-2009.

Cherry didn’t specifically have anything about the Mid Atlantic Pirates in mind when he came out to a local showcase.

“I was out on the field when one of their coaches saw me,” Cherry said. Cherry was invited to the Pirate tryouts.

Every weekend in June and July, the Pirates are playing somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

“It’s to get more exposure to college and to play against the best competition you can possibly play against to get better,” Cherry said.

Cherry’s a shortstop and pitcher for the Bulldogs. At tryouts, it looked as though the Pirate coaches have him pegged as a third baseman.

“We’re out of town at least four or five weekends,” said Cherry. The Pirates are fortunate to have a couple events in Hampton Roads, but other weekends mean trips to the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Military and East Carolina.

This leads to another hurdle for Cherry, the financial part of being on the road for much of the summer.

Cherry asked the Pirate coaches and they told him past players have had success finding businesses willing to sponsor a local player. So now Cherry’s trying to do the same around Suffolk.

The Mid Atlantic Pirates could boast 24 players in professional baseball as of the 2009 season. Big league stars from the Pirates have mainly been Hampton Roads stars in their younger days.

Bill Bray, Jason Dubois, Scott Sizemore, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Rupe, Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Verlander and David Wright are Mid Atlantic Pirate alums.

Nineteen players from the 2009 Pirate team are currently playing collegiately at schools ranging from Maryland, Navy and Army to Chowan, Virginia Wesleyan and Lynchburg.

Former Suffolk standouts have gone through the Pirates to help earn college scholarships. Nansemond-Suffolk grads Matt Davenport (William and Mary) and Bryan Breedlove (Lynchburg) and Nansemond River’s Tyren Rivers (Radford) and Justin Topping (VMI) played on the Mid Atlantic Pirates.