Andrew Snedecor has been to the epicenter of creativity and coolness for a 12-year-old boy: Todd McFarlane’s office.
“Everywhere you look there was something better,” Snedecor said. “There was all of this comic book stuff, toys and stuff like that. It was awesome.”
Not everyone gets a peek into McFarlane’s unique world, but as the manager of the Ahwatukee Little League’s All-Star Majors baseball team, he figured it would be a good way of creating some chemistry for the team.
“They got a chance to see that you can actually earn a living doing something really cool and fun,” McFarlane said. “Tell a 12-year-old he could get paid to make toys or playing video games and their eyes get huge with excitement.”
McFarlane’s two passions - baseball and creating superhero images - have garnered him national headlines.
Whether it was purchasing historic home run balls, including Mark McGwire’s 70th in 1998 for $2.7 million, or creating Spawn, a comic book character that has been depicted in everything from a live-action movie to an Emmy award-winning HBO show, McFarlane has centered much of his adult life to the fervor he has for these two aspects in his life.
Now he is attempting to pass both on to the Little Leaguers as they play their way through the District 13 Tournament this week at Tempe Sports Complex.
McFarlane started calling his team the Avengers and giving each one of them a superhero nickname.
He takes it even further by rarely calling the players by their actual names.
“It is so cool,” said Luis Noriega, a.k.a. “Batman.” “I think I was given Batman because I am the best hitter on the team. Coach does a lot for us and that just helps motivate us.”
McFarlane, 51, said it was a great way to get them thinking about being a team and understanding they can overcome any adversity they face on the diamond.
“Who doesn’t want to have special powers and be a superhero?” he said. “It is something they can gravitate to and grab a hold of.”
McFarlane said he is having a blast teaching and coaching the game at this level.
“This is the first time I’ve been involved with the All-Stars and it has been a great experience,” he said. “The biggest difference is their baseball IQs. I can show them a drill one time and they pick up on it whereas during the regular season where you have kids with varying degrees of ability you sometimes have to show them three or four times.”
McFarlane has developed an affection for this team, and not just because his son, Jake, is on the squad, but because many of the players are similar to the kind of player he was when he played for Eastern Washington.
Anyone who has seen a little league game these days knows some of players are so big for their age they look old enough to drive themselves to the game, let alone drive the ball over a fence 200 feet away.
That’s not the case with the Ahwatukee Majors, a squad of 11- and 12-year-olds which lost its first two games of the tournament but is still a favorite to make Wednesday night’s semifinals.
“We don’t have the size some of these teams do so we have to play a different kind of game,” McFarlane said. “We have to be more like a Japanese team where we work on taking advantage of our speed and quickness by putting the pressure on the (opposition’s) defense and getting to balls that other teams can’t when we are on defense.”
It’s the kind of player McFarlane said he was and it was the reason he fell in love with the game.
“I’m Canadian, so I grew up with hockey, but it was baseball that drew me in,” he said. “It was a sport where it didn’t matter what size you were where. In football, basketball and even hockey, size was important.
“In baseball, as long as you could play the game you had a chance.”
Kind of like a meek Peter Parker slipping on a mask and thrashing any villain coming his way.
“Coach has been telling us we can win our way,” Snedecor said. “We might not be the biggest team, but if we come together, we can take on anyone.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.