The Granite City Tribe poses with their trophy from last weekend's win.GRANITE CITY - When Eddie Bradley began coaching his son’s tee-ball team ten years ago, he had no idea he would eventually watch them win games at Gateway Grizzlies Ballpark.

Eddie’s players are mostly 14 and 15 now, and they play in the Southwestern Illinois Baseball League (SWIBL). After coming out on top in the league, the “Granite City Tribe” team played against the winning Southern Illinois Select Baseball League (SISBL) team last weekend and won the entire championship — for the second year in a row.

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“The thing that was most impressive was we did it last year,” Eddie said. “We’ve kind of coined it ‘The Triple Crown.’ We won the season, we won the tournament and then we won the championship, and we did all three of those two years in a row…To watch them really fall in love with the game, that’s always been our goal. And if they love the game, they’ll do well.”

Eddie used to coach baseball at the high school level until he left to coach his own kids. Four of the boys, including Eddie’s two sons, have been on the same team since they were 5 years old. These days, they’re just as close as ever.

“It’s really just been refreshing to see these boys and how they just communicate with one another and just the love they have for one another, truly,” said Danielle Lusicic, whose son plays on the team. “They always are wanting to be together. It just really does a heart good.”

The sport has brought more than just the boys together. Lusicic said her daughter plays with the other younger sisters during baseball games. The parents take turns hosting sleepovers. The team celebrated their latest victory with video games and a sleepover at the Bradley house.

The boys themselves are pleased with how the championship ended, if a little nonchalant. After all, they’ve been there, done that.

“It was no big deal. It was fun,” Timo Bradley, Eddie’s youngest son, said. “And it’s fun playing with my friends.”

His brother Tuff Bradley echoed that, though he pointed out that this isn’t their first big win. In the background, Eddie chuckled.

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“It didn’t feel that exciting to me, because we did it before,” Tuff said.

The SWIBL/SISBL Tournament took place at the Gateway Grizzlies Stadium, which seats 6,000 people. According to the boys, it’s cool, but it’s no biggie.

“We played there before, did the same thing last year. So it wasn't really much of a sweat this year to play there,” Ayden Cooper, another player, added.

The boys might be humble about it, but their parents are clearly very proud of them. Lusicic also expressed her thanks for Eddie. She laughed while recounting that her son once entered an essay contest about his favorite memories at the local park; he didn’t write about going to the park with his parents, but about “Coach Eddie” and the team’s practices on the fields.

“He’s just been absolutely wonderful. He built the team to where they are today. Many of them are between the ages of 14 and 15, and he just has created a bond with the boys,” she said. “It’s once in a lifetime that you come into a team where everyone is family.”

And that’s partly why Eddie loves it so much, and why he encourages more people to get involved as coaches. He noted that a lot of kids don’t get to play on a team like this because they don’t have a coach.

“There’s just not enough coaches for all the kids that want to play,” Eddie said. “And there are some men and women out there who are missing an opportunity to experience one of the most gratifying things of their entire lives. To not just fall in love with the game, and not just [see] the kids fall in love with the game, but to fall in love with the kids that are falling in love with the game.”

That’s why he loves it so much. He added that it’s been “humbling” to coach his own children and watch them succeed, especially as he prepares to step back from coaching. Pimo, Tuff and Cooper will all be freshmen this coming school year. Along with most of their friends, they’re going to start playing with the high school team.

Are they nervous?

Nah. They’ve got this. As Cooper said, “It’s still baseball.”

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