Baseball’s a big deal for these kids |

Baseball’s a big deal for these kids

Phil SandovalPost Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxJohnny Nieslanik, third baseman for the Three Rivers Rock Cats, tags out Littleton Warrior base runner Ryan Caccarelli during the Rock Cats 6-3 win.

CARBONDALE – Baseball has become more to area kids than grabbing a bat and glove to meet their buddies at the local park for a friendly game.Due to events like the Triple Crown tournament, which made its annual stop at local ball fields this weekend, the games have a major-league feel to them.All 39 teams came to play clad in tailored uniforms with each players’ last name emblazoned on the back of his jersey, slinging personalized bats on their shoulders.

Seemingly, the players’ bags are almost as tall as the athletes toting them – considering the players are as young as 10 years old.The play on the field is equally fancy. Most of the teams, which traveled from the Front Range and other elsewhere, have been together since early April. “The kids who play in Triple Crown are the best of the best,” said the Rock Cats head coach Mike Hoffman, whose son, Scott, plays for the team. That’s where local squads are at a disadvantage.

Each of the Roaring Fork Valley’s four entries were recently put together. Most of the players came from the Three Rivers Little League, which comprises teams of 9- to 14-year-olds from Glenwood, Carbondale and Basalt.Two of the four teams concluded tournament play winless. The other two squads – the 12U Three Rivers Rock Cats and the 11U Three Rivers Devil Dogs – won enough games in pool play to advance to Sunday’s playoffs.The Rock Cats took fifth place by defeating a team from Littleton at River Valley Ranch. At Sayre Park in Glenwood, the Devil Dogs bested the Arvada Red Sox for seventh place.”The difference between Triple Crown and Little League is the excitement of being able to lead off to steal bases and use big-barreled bats,” said Hoffman.

But a higher level of competition and baseball skills isn’t the only difference in Triple Crown ball.”It’s different because the pitching mound is 10 feet back further than Little League,” said Luke Jacobs, a pitcher for the Rock Cats. “It’s a little bit harder. But I’ve played Triple Crown for two years, and it doesn’t make that much difference for me,” he said.Parent involvement, Hoffman said, has played a key role, in the increase in participation of local teams at Triple Crown-sponsored events.”If you get a group of parents to back the kids, you’ll go anywhere you want to.”

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