Youth baseball still strong

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Summer in Steamboat is a youth's paradise.

Tennis, lacrosse, soccer, softball, mountain sports and of course, baseball.

While the other sports may have more participation and might be hot now, that doesn't mean Little League baseball is taking a back seat.

On Saturday, Steamboat Springs' 11- and 12-year-old team beat Summit in a best-of-three district series to see who would advance to state.

Steamboat was dominant, winning the two games by a combined score of 28-4. The team didn't commit an error all weekend.

Perhaps the most important thing, however, is that the team will be going to the state tournament for the third straight year.

"There's so many things for these kids to do," Steamboat coach Tim Bishop said. "It's really impressive these guys have stuck with baseball. They've played with each other since they were 7 and 8 years old."

The players on Steamboat's team play other sports, especially lacrosse and soccer. But their main focus is baseball.

In addition to their Little League schedule, the players have been playing with the all-star team since April. It started by tossing the ball in the gym and progressed to traveling to play some Triple Crown events and to play teams in surrounding areas.

All said, the members of the team play baseball - with games and practices - five nights a week.

It's that dedication and those results that eventually should make the Steamboat Springs High School baseball team successful.

Steamboat baseball players start at a disadvantage. This past season, Steamboat rarely was able to have outside practice time and had to travel for every game.

While the other sports - specifically lacrosse, tennis and soccer - have significant feeder programs that ensure the success of future programs, it's seemed at times that baseball would almost be forgotten. It's not hard to see why.

Baseball hasn't traditionally been strong at Steamboat's high school. Part of that is because of circumstance - weather, short season, location - and part is because with so many options available, athletes usually find and focus on another sport.

That's not a bad thing. That's just what happens when there are so many options.

But it's hard to imagine this group of 11- and 12-year-olds not sticking with baseball. They've already played together and had success for years.

Bishop said expectations are different for the team's third trip to the state tournament.

They don't just want to show up, they want to show up and do well.

Here's to guessing they will. They pitch and field and have started to hit.

Who knows, maybe someday they'll be making Steamboat a baseball paradise.

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