John F. Russell: Baseball finding its place in Ski Town USA

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— Sure, we live in a ski town, but this summer has proven there is room for other sports in the shadows of Howelsen Hill.

Steamboat Springs long has been known as a baseball town — at least for many teams from across the country that travel here to play in the Triple Crown baseball tournament every summer. But baseball is one of those sports that has always struggled to find its place in the mountains of Northwest Colorado.

But things seem to be changing.

In late July, Dave Roy and the American Legion Post 44 baseball team from Steamboat Springs collected the Legion B state championship. The win marked the end of a 27-5 season that the coach is hoping will carry over to the high school season in the spring.

Last week, a 13-and-younger baseball team from Steamboat Springs played in the Triple Crown World Series. Things started off slow for the hometown team, but after watching the team play a couple of games, I couldn’t help but feel the players were on the verge of a big win. It came Friday afternoon when the local team came out on top of a 17-11 score beating another Colorado team.

It might be just one game, but teams from Steamboat rarely have success in the tournament that draws top players from across the country. There were no expectations, at least outside the team’s dugout, when the all-star team took the field Wednesday.

The idea that Steamboat could throw a team together in a few weeks and pull out a win in this tournament was a long shot. I think the Colorado Rockies would have a better chance of sweeping the Atlanta Braves in every series for an entire season.

I’m not saying it was impossible, but after 20 years of covering Triple Crown tournaments, I would say a Steamboat team winning is unlikely.

Let's face the facts: Playing baseball in Ski Town USA is an uphill battle. It’s like riding your mountain bike to the top of Storm Peak in the highest gear with two flat tires. It’s like attempting to ski down the Why Not ski run on Alpine skis the first week of August.

In places like Denver, Houston or Danville, Calif., the baseball season consumes most of the year. The players on those teams were hand picked, and their parents already are busy planning the children’s high school and college baseball careers.

In Northwest Colorado, we have players committed to the game and players willing to train in gyms or travel for the chance to play in the spring. We have coaches like Roy who see a future for baseball in the shadows of Howelsen Hill.

This summer, the American Legion Post 44 team won a state title, and last week, the young players from Steamboat Springs proved with their play that they can hold their own in any tournament — even one that takes place in their own backyard.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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