Participation, performance up for S. Routt team

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When the Rockies -- South Routt Little League's baseball team -- won their league tournament two weeks ago, Coach Mike Jeep thought the parents were more excited than the players.

"The kids had a great time, but the parents were just as thrilled," he said.

The Rockies, a team of 11 players from across South Routt, were 8-5 at the end of the regular season and were happy to win the tournament championship and place third in the league, especially because the team is rebounding from several years of dealing with fewer players.

Jeep credits the increasing number of children in South Routt and growing interest in baseball during the past few years for the team's success. Jeep said it would have been difficult for the team to function without so many players.

Jeep, who formerly coached baseball at Soroco High School, said the community effort to support the players was incredible and that all the parents worked together to make sure the players were present for the games that were played in June and July in Steamboat Springs.

"It was an area-wide effort to ensure we had enough players. I really congratulate the parents, too," he said.

Jeep said baseball is a hard sport to get children involved in, especially because the season is so short in Routt County. Often, children will start playing at 8 or 9 years old and stick with the sport. He hopes this year's batch of players will stay interested in the program long enough to bring baseball back to Soroco High School. The baseball program was canceled two years ago.

Jeep already has one player, pitcher Nick Paxton, who intends to play until he is a senior in high school.

Nick, 10, of Phippsburg, began playing baseball last year and said he intends to play until he is too old to continue.

"This year, it felt awesome to win," he said. "We were ranked second-to-last in the league last year."

Player Matt Regan, 9, of Phippsburg, also was proud the team won the tournament and most of its games.

"We were all very excited to play in the championships," he said.

Matt's father, John Regan, got him interested in the sport. John Regan plays baseball and was one of the four coaches who worked with the players. Baseball fever runs in the Regan family -- Matt's mother, Charlene, is an avid softball player and is trying to start a woman's softball team in Oak Creek.

Matt, like Jeep, credits the community for helping the players achieve their goals because most of the players carpooled with other families to get to games.

"Every time someone said they were going to be there, they got there," he said.

Jeep said the players really grew this season, and he was happy to see South Routt competing with Steamboat teams.

"This team was very balanced, and we beat all the other teams, except two," he said.

Jeep said that, ideally, there would have been 12 or 13 players on the team but that the coaches were happy to have the 11 that brought the team to victory.

Jeep hopes that next year, even more players will play and that existing players will continue to play baseball in their age divisions.

The team is planning to have a party next week to celebrate the victory and award the prestigious MVP title to one lucky player.

"I think me or Matt have a chance of winning, but we did have a lot of really good players," Nick said.

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