Steamboat Springs In baseball, maybe more so than any other sport, repetitions mean everything.
It’s why pitchers and catchers report early and there is a month of spring training.
It’s also why the Steamboat Springs High School baseball team often struggles.
The team hasn’t played a home game in two years. When they do, of course, their home is in Craig.
Manager Dave Roy called them “the road warriors” earlier this week.
It’s easy for me to relate. I grew up in Leadville, attended Lake County High School (I was never Tasered at career day, for those wondering) and played four years of baseball.
We were never good and had just one winning season, which still stands as the only winning baseball season in school history. I was part of a 3-22 team my senior year.
But records aside, the Steamboat and Lake County baseball programs have similarities.
Taking ground balls and hitting in a gym can only go so far for players at both schools. When I was playing, we had a guy donate some land 25 minutes south of town. The weather still wasn’t great. I can recall playing centerfield one day and not being able to see second base because of a wicked snowstorm.
But getting the chance to play and practice outside made us monumentally better. It led to our one winning season.
The field wasn’t perfect. Home plate was 100 feet higher than the right field fence. The clay that would get turned up in the infield made a sports cup a must. But we were outside and that proved instrumental.
Fundamental knowledge in baseball is a must. Learning where to go on a bunt, where to play in double-play situations and when pitchers should be covering first base, for example, works better outside on a field than in a gym.
It’s why I feel for the Steamboat program. They’re resigned to practicing and hitting in a gym. There isn’t a clear field in the area. There probably won’t be one ready until the season is done.
There is certainly talent on the team. Evidence lies in the team’s ability to compete with teams in the summer.
This past summer, the team went .500 with a young team. The summer league essentially equates to what the Western Slope League looks like now.
Steamboat was competitive in the summer. Now, teams such as Delta and Palisade are leading the charge.
It’s not a coincidence those teams have been outside playing and practicing for two months.
It’s unfortunate. If possible, it would be great to move the high school season to the summer.
It would level the playing field and make things more fun.
Of course, asking high school students to do anything school-related during summer break is asking a lot.
There isn’t an easy answer or solution to the problem.
But those are the perils of baseball on the Western Slope.