Never has the phrase “all in the family” meant more than when used to describe Cobb Crew of the Calaveras County Men’s Softball League.
Technically, only six of the players on the Mokelumne Hill team are related n three brothers, a cousin and two distance relatives n but the entire team acts and plays like a group that’s known each other for years.
At the heart of the team is the Sweet family of Rail Road Flat. Baseball and softball have been part of the family going back more than 60 years.
Jeremy Sweet and teammate/relative Craig Wells started Cobb Crew in 1997. Since that time, the team has perennially been one of the top contenders in the Calaveras County Men’s Softball League n they won the county championship in 2001 n and has had numerous high finishes at slowpitch tournaments around Northern California.
This year, Cobb Crew is in first place in the Calaveras County Men’s Softball League with an 11-1 record and will likely be the top seed in the league championship tournament, which runs Aug. 23-26.
Jeremy Sweet, 30, who plays alongside younger brothers Ben, 27, and Dan, 20, said the love of the game of baseball and softball was passed down to them from their father Mike.
“We went to my dad’s games and he taught us, and when I started coach-pitch (baseball) my dad coached that,” Jeremy said. “That’s where we spent all of our summers, on a ball diamond, and we stuck with it. That’s all we did all summer long.”
“It kept us out of trouble for the most part,” Ben Sweet added.
Ben said growing up all three brothers emulated their father and started playing when they were in diapers. They just wanted to be doing what he was doing and it was natural to follow in his footsteps and get a softball team together.
All three brothers played high school baseball at Calaveras High and after that their thirst for playing continued. They eventually shifted to softball as a way to keep their love for the game alive. For the past six years, they’ve been playing together.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Jeremy said.
With Jeremy being the oldest and the team’s coach, it also means he’s somewhat of a disciplinarian.
“Oh yeah it’s fun, but my brothers would say I’m a lot harder on them because I expect more from them,” he said.
When asked if that was true, Ben grinned, took a sip of beer, and chimed, “Yeah he’s an A-hole.”
But Ben said he knows his brother is just trying to get the most out of him, and being able to play with him is very beneficial, no matter how much grief he gets. Most of the time, the brothers play middle infield together.
“You know what he’s going to be doing when you’re out there and we just kind of know where’s he’s going to be.”
The Sweet brothers’ camaraderie has been passed along to the rest of the team.
“A lot of stuff came with just being amongst one another and we all know what we’re capable of n just the comfort,” Jeremy said. “And a lot of the team itself are guys that grew up playing baseball, and even though we aren’t related, there’s guys that have been playing for just as long as we have.”
Scotty Guthrie has been playing with Ben and Jeremy since the team started in 1997. He said being around these guys, it’s hard not to feel like a Sweet.
“Jeremy is like a big brother to everyone, whether you’re younger or older than him,” Guthrie said.
The Valley Springs resident couldn’t explain why it’s so fun to play with these guys, but he’s glad they recruited him.
“It’s contagious and it must have rubbed off on us,” Guthrie said.
Dave Sweet, 28, a cousin, said it’s natural to treat everybody on this team like family because it’s led to some great success.
“We’ve been playing with the same players for a long time and that’s a big benefit,” Dave said. “We try to keep it that way and we treat them like family.”
Dan Sweet, the youngest of the three Sweet brothers, said he’s been itching to be able to play alongside his brothers for years.
“I’ve always wanted to play with them. It’s a real blast,” Dan said. “The whole family has been into baseball for a long time and growing up watching my dad was a real treat. My brothers started playing softball when I was still in Little League and I enjoyed watching them play. I got on the team when I was 13 or 14 years old.”
Dan played on and off for the first few years, but has since become a staple on the team. Dan also tried out to play on the baseball team at UOP and even though he didn’t make the team, it was still a great experience.
“I learned a lot and I was able to take it to here and help us out,” he said. “Even though it’s softball, it’s the same fundamentals.”
But that experience isn’t as great as playing on an all-Sweet infield, which does happen on occasion.
Mike Sweet and his wife Patty are still involved with their son’s games. Mike is technically still on the team’s active roster, although it’s been awhile since he’s actually suited up for a game.
On Tuesday night, Mike and Patty were on hand keeping score and cheering for Cobb Crew during a close victory over TSDS in San Andreas.
The couple could often be heard shouting encouragement or other things to try and play with the opposing pitcher’s mind. Patty even got off a few verbal, albeit playful, shots at umpire Bob Earl.
Mike, 54, said he and his brothers used to play softball at the field in Rail Road Flat in the 1970s and those games would bring the whole town together. The lineage of the Sweet family’s involvement with softball goes back to when Mike’s uncle Les Mechling played for teams in the 30s and 40s.
“They grew up around it and it’s just in us,” Mike said. “I coached them in Little League and I’m pleased that they’re still playing. It’s exciting as a father and I feel proud that they continued to play ball.”
Dan echoed his dad’s words and summed up the feeling that surrounds the Cobb Crew team.
“It’s a family tradition n it’s a must n and even if I didn’t want to, I’d be here anyway,” he said. “And it’s even better that I want to.”
Contact Ryan Wallace at email@example.com.