Baseball and softball were in full swing this summer as the Carbondale Recreation Center’s (CRC) little league teams slid into perfect seasons.
Attracting kids from all around Carbondale, the CRC league had approximately 70 athletes spread across seven teams. Included in the program were tee-ball, ages 7-8 coach-pitch, ages 9-10 and 11-13 kid-pitch and ages 8-10 softball.
Starting in mid-May, the league began with early season practices followed by multiple Valley-wide games, against Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Aspen. The season was capped at the end of July with a fast-paced championship tournament.
On July 28, two exciting games highlighted this year’s league championship, as the ages 9-10 team, the Blue Jays, and 11-13 team, the Yankees, both won in overtime games against their Aspen rivals. After a disappointing early season tie with Aspen, the Blue Jays were motivated by unfinished business during the final.
Coach Will Tempest, recreation coordinator of athletics, youth programs and special events at CRC, said tensions were rising when Aspen got up to bat and the game’s 90-minute clock was winding down. The Blue Jays were up five runs, but that was the inning’s scoring limit for this age, and if Aspen scored five runs then the Blue Jays would end with another tie.
“The kids realized the stakes were getting high,” Tempest said. “Our pitcher was super nervous. He walked two or three runs, and had some really nice strike-outs on a couple of kids. … The bases were loaded, and it was getting down to the wire.”
When Aspen’s top batter stepped up to the plate, Blue Jays’ pitcher Mac Bevington threw him a pitch that resulted in a solid ground ball to second base. Leo Turner, quick on his feet, scooped the ball, tossed it to first, and got the batter out. The crowd went wild.
“The teams were hard to beat, but in the end I just felt like we could do it, and we did it!” Blue Jays’ first baseman Arlo Bailey, 9, said. “We have such a great team and we all like each other and we all get along.”
The Yankees, coached by longtime parent volunteer Todd Cerrone, defeated Aspen by one run in overtime after a heartstopping final play.
Pitcher Elsie Mile, 11, said, “I was put in when we were tied during the fourth inning. There were two hits to the shortstop and he made both plays. I think that was a game changer.”
When the Yankees got up to bat, player Henry Bailey, 11, said, “We got a few hits. And then Levi, one of the kids on our team, stole two bases and slid home. We carried him on our shoulders! It was so cool!” Henry said this win broke Aspen’s seven-year winning streak, which made the win even sweeter.
While the wins highlighted the tournament, Tempest said that all seven teams had incredible seasons, including the girls’ ages 8-10 softball team, coached by Jackie Collins.
“They had a really successful season and good turnout,” Tempest said. “[Jackie] worked super hard on creating a really fun atmosphere for those kids and I hope we can continue to have interest and a successful softball season.”
For Tempest, the parents and volunteers really made this season one to remember for the kids. “Having perennial coaches who have the experience, and come back year after year is the best because I can rely on them to take care of things,” he said. “They are such a valuable resource, and the kids love playing with them, too.”
The Bailey boys noted their respective coaches’ enthusiasm for the game and commitment to sportsmanship. They also emphasized that their coaches really made it an enjoyable experience.
“The coaches want to have fun, and they don’t care if we win or lose, they just do it for the fun of it, and I like that,” Mile said. “I want to thank the coaches for all the work they did.”
Andrew Mile, Elsie’s dad, has been a volunteer coach for six years, starting when his son was in the coach-pitch program. For him, seeing the kids’ progress over the years has been the most inspiring part. “The first year you may not think you’re seeing any growth, but then by the end of the season you look back and things have changed a lot,” he said. “Once you’re in the dug-out with the kids, it’s just pure fun.”
And the kids would wholeheartedly agree.
To learn more about the youth athletics programs or to get involved, email Will Tempest at email@example.com for more information.