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Little Village Little League trio to represent Team Mexico in international tournament

Little Village Little League trio to play in international tournament
Little Village Little League trio to play in international tournament 02:42

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Three young baseball players from Little Village, who have been playing together since they were four years old, are getting the chance of a lifetime.

In a few weeks, they'll travel to Costa Rica to represent Team Mexico in an international tournament.

CBS 2's Jackie Kostek shares how leaders in the neighborhood have built a pipeline of opportunity for kids to grow in the sport.

In Little Village's Piotrowski Park, a passion for the game is leading to a world of opportunity.

"I feel very fortunate, and especially that us three, we get to represent Little Village; and, not only us three, but as a whole team that's going to represent Mexico," said 13-year-old Freddy Garcia.

The week of Thanksgiving, Victor Cervantes, Freddy Garcia, and Ben DeMateo will be swinging for the fences in a new part of the world, when they represent Team Mexico in a 14-and-under tournament in Costa Rica.

"A lot of times when you play inner city baseball, you might not get all the same opportunities for kids who are playing in other areas, and we want to show them that our kids are just as good, and we would say even better, and represent Chicago well on the international stage, their own community, their families," said Little Village Little League coach Matt DeMateo.

In many ways, the three boys – and countless other Little Village Little Leaguers – are the beneficiaries of coaches Matt DeMateo's and Tony Rodriguez' intentional investment in the community.

"I saw the neighborhood change, especially in the sports area, in baseball particularly. It wasn't as strong as it was before. So I'm like, no this is my neighborhood, I've gotta come back and help out," said Rodriguez, a Little Village native who coaches the Cubs RBI All Stars youth baseball program.

DeMateo started by breathing new life into Little Village Little League 12 years ago. Later, Rodriguez saw potential for more growth.

"I was like, you know what, this kid can play. That kid has some talent, he has good hands. I could develop these kids," Rodriguez said.

So he started a year-round development program, an offshoot of Little Village Little League called Little Village Sluggers - teaching the fundamentals of the game and using his connections as a former college and semi-pro coach to elevate their experience.

Case in point, a partnership with Cubs Charities and its youth RBI All Stars team led to major facility upgrades at Piotrowski Park, and new equipment for players.

This summer, Victor, Ben and several other Little Village Sluggers traveled to Iowa to kick off the Field of Dreams game.

"This is big beyond for them. It's big for their generation that's coming; other kids that are 5, 6 years old that just see Cubs, MLB teams that, 'Hey, they got there. I can get there,'" Rodriguez said.

Now, the chance to take their talents to a whole new level - an international tournament - in a whole new part of the world.

"For the love of the game, we just love what we do and we do it together," Rodriguez said.

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