New Castle Titans/Blue Sox cut their teeth |

New Castle Titans/Blue Sox cut their teeth

Phil SandovalGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Phil Sandoval/Grand Junction Free PressCoal Ridge's Jonathan Roessler pitches for the New Castle Blue Sox - the summer banner for the Titans - in a recent Triple Crown game in Grand Junction. Though the players are mostly young and inexperienced, their new head coach said they are constantly improving.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – Baseball is important to the Western Slope’s small schools. Yet, due to numbers, Coal Ridge High School and those with similar student populations have more obstacles to overcome than larger ones.Steve Ryan, who was recently named head coach of the Titans, explained some of those steps after piloting his team in a Triple Crown-sponsored tournament game held at Canyon View Park.”The 2A and 3A schools really struggle because of numbers because they have to share so many athletes,” he said. “At times, we’ve had to struggle this summer between baseball season and basketball and football camps.”

Despite the coach’s need to keep close tabs on his athlete’s summer schedules, the Titans, under their summer banner of the New Castle Blue Sox have played 22 games. As the team’s schedule unfolded Ryan saw a lot of improvement.”With our summer program the biggest thing we try to do is develop some of our younger pitchers,” he said. A task made tougher by the team’s overall youth and baseball inexperience.

Due to graduating its first senior class in May, the Titans/Blue Sox, opened summer ball with just two returning lettermen from the 2008 club. The rest of the squad consisted of seven incoming freshmen along with two sophomores and juniors who had not played competitive baseball.Which meant, to Ryan, teaching the game from square one to his new players.”We just are trying to develop the fundamentals and a good work ethic, which they’ve come a long ways with,” he said. “They’re really working on their effort and attitude and staying up and completing games. And they’ve done a very good job with that.” Although the Titans/Blue Sox completed summer play with only three wins, Ryan has seen a turn in the team’s overall skills.

“We started out giving up 9 and 11 runs in one inning. We’ve gotten over that hurdle and are playing to our potential every pitch. It’s been a progression every game,” he said.The team’s progress showed in its Triple Crown tournament opening game against the Gene Taylor’s select 18-year-old team, which consists of the best graduated seniors from Grand Junction, Grand Junction Central, Fruita Monument and Palisade High Schools.”There’s two innings where we played with them. We held them to one run after giving up seven,” noted Ryan. “They kept their heads up. They made their plays and stuck with their fundamentals.”Facing older, more experienced teams, the Blue Sox lost all four of their Triple Crown games. What they learned there, Ryan said, will speed each player’s personal development.”That’s one of the big reasons we came to this tournament. I knew the level of competition would be very high. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted these boys to see what they could aspire to be and set their goals higher.”

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