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Crown jewels

Triple Crown teaches youths about the sport of baseball

JOHN KEEGAN

— Seth Lingo learned a bit of baseball wisdom Friday at the Triple Crown World Series.

In the top of the fourth inning, Lingo, the Rocky Mountain Rage’s first baseman, dug in with a man in scoring position. Opposing Fort Collins Blaze pitcher Colton Connoly got the signal from his catcher, came to the stretch and delivered.

Connoly, who had mixed his fastball and changeup beautifully to that point, left his heater high this time. Lingo deposited the mistake pitch well over the left field fence for a two-run homer, giving the Rage a 3-0 lead.

Lingo’s teammates swarmed him when he touched home plate, screaming and smacking their cleanup hitter’s helmet furiously. The melee had not even begun, though.

Upon receiving orders from coaches and fans, Lingo sprinted back toward third base. Connoly threw to third before Lingo got there, and the umpire signaled Lingo was out because he had missed third on his home run trot.

The play proved costly, as the Blaze came back late to win, 5-2.

Lingo, a brawny kid with a powerful right-handed stroke, likely will hit his share of homers in the future. And every time he does, you can bet he will touch all four bases.

The mistake was only one of many made at the Woodbury Sports Complex on Friday. This year, 56 teams from around the country are playing in the tournament, which hosts games in Hayden, Steamboat, Oak Creek and Craig.

“These tournaments are phenomenal,” said Bobby Norton, coach of the Boston, Mass., team of 13-year-olds. “You get all the flavor of baseball with teams coming in from California, Montana, Indiana and all these different places.

“You see a lot of raw talent. It’s nice to see them let you mold them into sharper players. You know, these kids really allow you to work with them.”

Most teams in the tournament will play 60 to 80 games by summer’s end. On one hand, the game frequency polishes players’ skills. On the other, coaches must avoid overextending young arms. With teams carrying an average of 12 players and playing multiple double-headers this week alone, protecting youngsters is tricky.

“We just lost our ace a couple weeks ago,” said 13-year-old Ian McCracken from Billings, Mont. “He broke his ankle at basketball camp, so we’re kind of hurting for pitchers.”

Pitchers were allowed to throw seven innings during the first three games, and then one inning for each additional game.

The tournament started Wednesday and will end Sunday evening in Steamboat. From the original 56 teams, 32 advanced into a double-elimination bracket for the crown. The other 24, including Rocky Mountain and Fort Collins, continued playing in a consolation tourney.

“AAU baseball is a better avenue, now,” Norton said. “You can see pitchers with sliders and splitters, everything. It’s incredible what some of these kids can do.

“Our first game, a 13-year-old kid from one of the California teams, he had a goatee. He hit two homers. It was like, ‘Wow!'”


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