Last year at this time Nevada City Little League had only three all-star teams. It was without the Juniors (13-14-year-olds) because there was a lack of interest, but last night, Nevada City’s Junior All-Stars proudly took to the field and battled hard against Bear River.
“I’m excited to have a team here together this year,” said NCLL President Mike Fitzpatrick. “There weren’t enough eligible and able. Parents plan activities and trips in the summer. I believe we’re back because of Don Mays and Mark Tintle. They’ve contributed a lot to kids wanting to play baseball.”
Mays and Tintle were coaches during the regular season, and thanks to their enthusiasm and mentoring for the game of baseball, Nevada City can swing for the fences once again.
“The kids have grown a lot. (Mays and Tintle) are men of the community and have contributed to the league. Teenagers go on trips, start jobs. They have a lot of distractions. I commend them for their work, and it’s encouraging to see them play to the next level of all-stars.”
Not only have the kids decided to stick around this summer to play for the all-star team, but for many of them, it was a goal and a hope since the beginning of the season.
“There’s kids who like baseball, and there’s kids who love it and work hard to improve,” Fitzpatrick said. “Some have goals to get to all-stars. I’m impressed with kids who have built their own character in the process.”
Fitzpatrick also enjoyed helping coach his son’s team and testified to seeing a tremendous improvement among all players from day one until the end of the season.
“We’ve gotten so much positive feedback from parents on how their kids enjoy practices and games,” added Fitzpatrick. “As a parent-coach, it was phenomenal.”
On the all-star practice field, word about building kids up for brighter futures was a consistent theme. Winning or losing is clearly not the main focus when it comes two youth ball clubs stepping on the field in a game that means so much more for those who have pursued it as more than just a hobby.
“We’ve had seven practices together,” said Randy Wirick, coach of the Grass Valley Junior All-Stars. “I think we’re gelling nice. It can be hard for newbies to come together. This group is very supportive, cohesive and has real good chemistry.”
As with the spontaneous mess-ups that come with life, the game of baseball also comes with a few of its own curve balls.
“Adversity is going to happen,” explained Wirick. “There’s going to be bad hops. Champions know how to overcome it. You just have to get ready for the next pitch.”
At this level and at this time of year, the recipe for success is sure to vary. While some kids may have their heads in the clouds, thinking about what they’re doing after the game, these all-stars have worked hard to earn the number on their backs.
“Offensively, we’re pretty good,” Wirick said. “Pitching-wise, we’re OK. We have eight kids who can see time. We still have to hit, catch and throw. We have high character. I know most families, and we have good kids. Some of them it’s their first time. It’s doesn’t matter if you win every game but that you always compete. If we have a pitch we have a chance. We’re trying to prepare them for high school. I’ve known Ted (White) for a long time.”
After all-stars is over, so too are many dreams, but those who have that die-hard, never-give-up mentality will not let their athletic careers end here. They will go on to compete at the prep level and possibly beyond. Some may be doing it for themselves, but most of them will be doing it because at one point, somebody believed in them.
“This is their last chance to play before high school, and as a group they’ve come a long way,” added Wirick. “I’ve been immensely impressed on how they’ve turned into such good ballplayers.”
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-4774234.