SAINT LOUIS, Mo. — Instead of the Cardinals, it may be the St. Louis Patriots who may be the closest team to a World Series title.
But what makes the Patriots different, aside from the fact they're a high school team, is that they're a team made entirely of home-schooled teens.
“I think in 2013 we were finally able to play MSHSAA Schools. So that’s when it really exploded," said head coach Mark Valle.
“It’s really cool. We’re just like any other private school," he said.
The Patriots were formed in 2006 in order to give young, home-schooled athletes a chance to play competitive high school baseball in the St. Louis area.
“They could play in rec leagues and things of that nature but there just wasn’t any competitive baseball," said Valle, now in his 11th year as head coach.
Now, not only is the team competing year in and year out for a Home School World Series championship (finishing 4th last year), but the Patriots have a JV squad and youth teams as well.
“I think it’s awesome to just be unique and different in that way," said David Olejnik, the team's senior center fielder who will play for Western Illinois University next year.
“We’ve played schools, big schools, 5A schools, we’ve also played small private schools.”
Olejnik is currently the area's home run leader and just one of three Patriots currently atop the RBI leaderboard for the St. Louis area. The senior leader says he's truly appreciated how home-schooling has given up the opportunity to have a flexible schedule to meet his athletic demands.
“Being able to go to the cages between, maybe, an 11 am class at St. Louis Community College, and, maybe, an online class at 3 o’clock, is pretty nice," he said.
Senior utility man Charlie Schark is out this season with a knee injury. But he's still at every practice and every game because he feels the Patriots is a "brotherhood."
“A lot of these guys play on the same summer team, so we’re together half the year, at least," he said.
“That’s actually the reason I stayed homeschooled, because we found a competitive baseball program.”
The Patriots are also a Christian-based program, with similar values and codes of conduct to what many would find at certain private schools in the area.
“Mentoring young men to be Christians and to honor God in all that they do. That’s the most important thing to me by far," said Valle.
“And I love baseball, that doesn’t hurt," said Valle with a laugh.
The Patriots have two home games left next week at the Bridgeton Athletic Complex before heading down to Florida to play in the Home School World Series again this year.
The Patriots won the Division II Home School World Series in 2013 and 2015.
“We want to play. We want to win. We’re gonna compete every time we’re on the field. We’re gonna play to honor God. We’re gonna play to lift each other up as teammates," said Olejnik.
You can learn more about the St. Louis Patriots by visiting their website here.