Little League teams take to the diamond in season opener
With the dink of the aluminum bat, and as much cheering from the dug-outs as the bleachers, Little League baseball and softball returned Wednesday night to Craig.
With a full slate of games at Woodbury Sports Park and Loudy-Simpson Park, the boys and girls of summer took to the diamond.
As the umpires yelled “Play ball!” for the first time, an entire winter of waiting was over, and teams of boys and girls spilled onto the fields for Craig Youth Baseball.
The league is run through Craig Parks and Recreation.
Casey Nations roamed the hot corner for the Mountain West Insurance team. Nations, 11, has played since he was in preschool.
“I love baseball, I love hitting,” he said. “You get to come out and have fun.”
Although Nations is a right-handed batter, his favorite player is Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Nations wants to bash a home run every time he’s up.
“Last year, I hit one,” he said. “I’ve hit two in my career, and I want to hit some more this year.”
The teams of 11- and 12-year-olds, 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds will play 10 games this season, before an end-of-season tournament
Jim Gumber, coach of the Mountain West team, spent most of the night yelling encouragement and tips to his players.
“The kids all have a good time out here,” he said.
Gumber said the teams this year would be very competitive.
“I think we’re all pretty close, we’ll all do well,” he said. “We just need to get some hits.”
Coach Sean Leonard spent the evening opposite Gumber, managing the Elk Run Inn team.
“I’m excited for the season to start, and I know the kids are, too,” he said. “Everyone’s ready to play baseball – I’m always ready for baseball.”
Leonard said the decision to take up the reins and coach the team was simple.
“I love baseball; it’s why I’m here,” he said.
Javen Gumber, 12, toed the rubber for the night, something he’s been looking forward to for a while.
Last year, Gumber had to sit out the season after he broke his arm from being hit by a pitch.
“I had to wait all season,” he said. “I’ve been waiting so long to play again.”
Gumber said he wants to throw a no-hitter, just like his favorite pitcher, Mark Buerhle of the Chicago White Sox.
And when the choice is between smashing a home run or tossing a gem, the choice is simple for Gumber.
“I’d like to strike out 10 hitters,” he said. “And, if I throw a no-hitter, it probably means my team is going to win.”
Brandon Galvan, an 11-year-old catcher, has trouble deciding on his favorite part of baseball.
“Everything,” he said. “Hitting, fielding, just everything.”
Galvan’s favorite big leaguer is former Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday. Like Holliday, Galvan said he wants to move the offense along.
“I just want to hit the ball and score runs,” he said.
Although he can’t decide on hitting or fielding, Galvan needs no explanation as to why he loves the game.
“Because,” he said, “it’s just baseball.”
Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or email@example.com
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