—By Kayla Prasek—

The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — They didn't think they'd have to raise money to get back home.

That's exactly what the Murfreesboro, Tenn., Diamondbacks were doing Tuesday morning as they washed cars to help them pay the change fee on their plane tickets back home. The total cost to the team is about $5,000.

The Diamondbacks were eliminated from the Connie Mack World Series on Sunday by the Ann Arbor Travelers, and a mistake by one of the coaches led to a misunderstanding on the change fee costs.

"Most teams have sponsors, so they have money behind them," said Pam Erickson, a foster mom for five Diamondbacks players. "They're trying to raise the $5,000 they did not have for their change fees."

Erickson said the players and foster families all were helping with the car wash.

"We did a lot together this week," Erickson said. "The community supported them so much. It's a new experience for all of them that they'll never forget."

That community support is something that was lacking for the team back home. Coming to the world series without a sponsor meant the Diamondbacks had to raise funds just to get here.

"I'm at a loss for words for the support this community has shown us," coach Dustin Smith said. "We're hoping it springboards support in our community back home."

To help the players save money, one of the coaches drove a trailer with their luggage and gear from Murfreesboro to Farmington, Erickson said.

The idea for the car wash came after the team realized it needed to raise money to fly home.

"It was an easy thing to do to raise money," Smith said. "It's fun. The guys and parents are having a good time."

About an hour before the car wash was scheduled to end, approximately 40 cars had gone through, foster mom Valerie Uselman said.

"A lot of foster families have come through and members of the (American Amateur Baseball Congress) have been through," Smith said. "There have been some people that have been through that our foster families said they didn't know."

It wasn't just community members providing support, either.

"Businesses have been bringing money over," Uselman said. "It's not just people who wanted their cars washed. Some people have driven up and handed the boys $50 bills and driven off."

That community support is what the Connie Mack World Series is all about.

"It speaks a lot for the community," Erickson said about all the donors. "The community fell in love with these boys in a short time. And what isn't to love about these Sandlot' kids?"

Erickson, who has fostered players for 10 years, said her family already is planning a trip to Tennessee next June to visit the team.

"I cannot express how sweet they are," Erickson said. "They're laughing and having fun even while washing cars. Who else dances on the field? They definitely became part of our family this week."

Smith said the team's experience at the world series was "unbelievable."

"I had always heard great things about the series," he said. "It far exceeded any of our expectations. You can hear the stories, but until you experience it, you really don't know what it's like. The community really embraces the teams."

Although they were eliminated after two games, Uselman said the team should be proud of what it accomplished.

"These boys have heart," Uselman said. "They are true Southern gentlemen. They represented Tennessee well."

The team left Farmington at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

"I just want to thank everyone for everything they did for us all week, from the host families to the AABC and the rest of the community," Smith said. "We greatly appreciate it."

Kayla Prasek: kprasek@daily-times.com