A (little) league of their own | PostIndependent.com

A (little) league of their own

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” Landing a Little League charter is a big step in bolstering an area’s baseball presence.

Getting kids on the diamond at an early age ” and in sizable doses ” creates a ripple effect that reaches the high school level.

That’s why Rifle High School baseball coach Troy Phillips is happily embracing the formation of Colorado River Valley Little League, which offers Rifle, New Castle, Parachute, Silt and Meeker youngsters a Little League circuit to call their own.

“I just wanted to see something where the kids are getting more, more playing time, more practice time,” Phillips said. “That’s key for kids to get good at a sport.”

CRV just finished up its very first regular season, with three teams and just under 40 kids interleaguing with neighboring Three Rivers Little League ” made up of teams from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt ” to get a full schedule in.

The three teams played at three different levels ” majors and minors for 9- to 12-year-olds and a junior league for 13- and 14-year-olds ” in the regular season.

Now, the CRV kids are preparing for their first All-Star showing. The 11- and 12-year-olds, hailing primarily from Rifle and Silt, open the District 1 Tournament Friday against Fruita. Due to injuries and other unforeseen circumstances, CRV is going to bat with just the one team in All-Star play.

Those involved are just happy to see a new baseball outlet in their area. At last, these players have a league of their own.

“Because of population limits, we couldn’t tag onto the Three Rivers charter, so that prompted us to start our own,” said CRV Little League President Clint Bartels, whose lobbying efforts led to landing the charter. “We thought this would be a beneficial opportunity for all kids, from New Castle through Parachute.”

Previously, kids played in the Three Rivers league through waivers, which didn’t offer all the perks having your own league does.

“After studying it a bit, we found that kids playing on waivers didn’t have the same opportunities as the kids playing on the charters themselves,” Bartels noted. “They couldn’t play All-Stars, the TOC (Tournament of Champions), all the stuff Little League stands for.”

Little League offers a longer season than the recreational youth leagues run by recreation departments of the various cities included in the charter, and all the benefits of a finely tuned, national organization.

While all parties appreciate the city leagues’ presence, it just isn’t enough time for a youngster to learn the game.

“For several years now, all they’ve had is a six-week rec program,” Phillips said. “You can’t learn baseball in a month and a half. You have to play three or four months. As a kid growing up, I’d play from April to August. Here they play from June to July.”

Now, a lot of kids are playing in both Little League and in the more relaxed rec leagues.

“They’ll do our Little League in the spring and jump to rec ball in the summer,” said James Ray, manager of the CRV 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars.

Exposing kids to competitive ball is so critical to those youngsters who one day move up to high school ball.

“They have the ability to strengthen their programs,” he explained. “When you play in a little area and then move out of it, the competition is more stringent. The kids in Junction play from mid-March through mid-July and our rec league started in the beginning of June and is really only six weeks. By the time they get to high school, they’re trying to compete against these kids from Junction. It’s really tough.”

Let the postseason begin, says Bartels.

“This year, they’re starting the road to the World Series,” he explained. “It’s a huge, huge thing. It’s a neat opportunity for these kids to play a little different level of baseball, and that’s the whole idea behind Little League.”

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