Drew Chapman just wanted to play at a local tournament with his friends.
In the summer months following his graduation from Ellison High School in 2005, the former Eagles first baseman gathered a group of friends from around the area, including a number from various Killeen schools, to form a team.
His intentions were to simply play for fun at Copperas Cove’s annual Rabbit Fest Softball Tournament.
Eight years later, Killeen’s Brew Crew regularly competes on the nation’s biggest stages, including a trip to the 2013 Amateur Softball Association Slow Pitch Championship Series this weekend in Ridgeland, Miss.
Although the Brew Crew was eliminated from title contention Saturday afternoon, the tournament holds special meaning for Chapman.
“A lot of (teams) will fly people in from all over the place, and, yeah, they get to play in this tournament, but it is not with your buddies,” he said. “It is not with your team. These are guys I’ve been playing with forever. I can speak for everybody when I say how special this trip is.”
The Brew Crew earned the all-expenses paid trip to participate in the 16-team tournament by finishing third at a national tournament in Springfield, Mo., over Labor Day weekend. Following a 17-2 opening-round loss Friday, the Brew Crew advanced to the second round of the loser’s bracket via forfeit before a second defeat knocked them out of the double elimination tournament.
Shawn Matsi, who graduated from Killeen High School in 1992 and serves as head coach and elder statesman for a team comprised mainly of players in their mid-20s, has seen vast improvements since it first formed.
“We were absolutely terrible, to tell you the truth,” the 39-year-old pitcher said. “They were all young kids coming out of high school, who had all the fundamentals as far as defense was concerned, but they just hadn’t figured out how to hit a softball. Through the years, we’ve progressed and progressed and progressed, stayed together and grown.
“To watch it from where we began to where we are now, it is definitely a huge accomplishment.”
After forming to compete in area leagues and tournaments, the Brew Crew have established themselves as a powerhouse, winning state championships in three of the last five years and playing at the national tournament in each of the past five years. Only the top four teams from each of the four regions advance to the prestigious ASA Slow Pitch Championship Series.
While the Brew Crew competed in the Men’s Class D division, they were side by side with the nation’s elite, who play in the Class A division tournament held at the same location, giving Chapman and his teammates an additional thrill.
“It is an honor to share the field with those guys that have bats named after them and stuff,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be here. I never thought we would ever do something like this. … There are the guys you watch on ESPN playing against team Canada and stuff, so to get here and have a conversation with them and share the field with them, it’s awesome.”