Think that Indiana doesn’t complete with the rest of the nation on the ball diamond? Perhaps you should reconsider those thoughts.
Take for example, the St. Joe’s Little League. Five of the league’s baseball teams recently won Little League District 10 championships in leagues that range from 11 to 15 teams from Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana area. Three of those squads have already advanced through far enough state tournament berths.
“We’ve got a talented group of kids,” [league vice president, Greg] Hadden said. “My 12-year-olds alone, 10 of them have been playing together since they were 9- and 10-year-olds. That’s where you start” [source: The News-Sentinel].
But in addition to the state achievements like this, there are individual standouts who are preparing to play on the national stage with the Hamilton County-based Indiana Prospects Baseball Organization.
The organization seeks to help players with their total development by providing training, knowledge and the highest level of competition possible. This year’s U16 Blue roster included Garrett High School’s Spencer Burns and Carroll High School’s Curtis Wise. The U13 roster included Montpelier (Blackford) Middle School’s Ryan Spaulding, whose team qualified for the USSSA Elite 24 national championship at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Baseball Complex in Orlando, Fla. from Aug. 3-10.
“When we went into this, we were not on anybody’s radar; teams from Indiana don’t get a lot of hype compared to Texas, Florida and Alabama,” said Shane Stout, the coach of the U13 team, as the organization had only one team reach this level previously. “You’ve got to pinch yourself to realize what has happened” [source: IndyStar].
And as local players go on to excel in Little League or High School, look also to the tremendous number of local standouts who are excelling at the college level. Several others are playing in Minor League Baseball and even at the Major League Level. These homegrown players have learned to play the game the right way through solid leagues; like the St. Joes Little League, like Wallen Baseball, like Wildcat Baseball.
It’s the coaches and parents who volunteer their time and experience to serve as teachers and mentors. Folks like, Gary Rogers, who has served the sport over two decades at Bishop Luers. His record there is a 352-302 (that’s over 600 games folks), he’s worked with Wildcat Baseball and within the SAC and the state’s coaches’ associations. He coached Luers to its first state championship with a 14-8 win over Elwood this past June, and then served as head coach of the North All-Stars in the three-game series against at Notre Dame’s Eck Stadium.
Along the way, there are a number of lives he’s touched and kids he’s developed. The same is true for the many other coaches at local high schools, middle schools and on the Little League diamonds. It’s that being the case, it’s no wonder so many of our stars are excelling on and off the field.
You say baseball is all about ballparks, money, commercialism and merchandising? I say your watching the wrong game. Look to the smaller fields with the smaller stars. You see big time talent and big time hearts of those who help build their character.
Yes, the spirit of the game is alive and well in Fort Wayne and all of Northeast Indiana.