As I have stated in previous RR&R columns, high school sports coverage is the primary focus of The Courier-Times in regard to athletics.
Since the IHSAA sports calendar runs typically from early August of one year to about mid-June of the next, something must be found to fill the void in the sports pages from mid-June to late July.
Locally, we are blessed to have Little League Baseball and Babe Ruth League Baseball programs to help fill that void, and coverage of the New Castle Girls Youth Softball League also would be in the mix if someone provided its schedule to me.
In 2022, we will be even more blessed in this city, as Indiana Little League Baseball has decided to hold its state tournament for the 10-12s (Major League) in New Castle.
This is the tournament that leads to the Great Lakes Regional, which feeds into the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
This is a big deal for our town, as it should lead to out-of-town folks staying at our local motels, eating at our local restaurants, and shopping in our local stores. So there is an economic impact to it.
Back in 2006, I remember covering for The Courier-Times our New Castle Little League Baseball team in that state tournament in Merrillville.
I pulled an all-nighter, driving to “The Region” to cover two games, including the championship game, and driving back to the C-T to write up both games and provide a photo or two of New Castle’s championship.
That team included players Adam Kranda, Connor King, and Trey Ball and was managed by Bret Mann. That squad came close to going to the Little League World Series, falling in the championship game of the Great Lakes Regional in Indianapolis, which I also covered.
“Hosting a state tournament involves a lot of work,” NCLL Baseball President Steve Pass said after Monday evening’s announcement. “But it’s a great honor to be asked to host it, as the rest of the state feels you have great facilities to do it.”
New Castle Little League does have two excellent diamonds, but work still needs to be done, particularly on the upper diamond.
One thing that needs to be done is to move the bleachers on the third base side of the upper diamond closer to the field of play.
When the new dugouts were constructed, folks couldn’t see home plate from part of one set of those bleachers. During Sunday’s semifinals of the District 6 Coaches Pitch Tournament, some folks erected tents between that set of bleachers and the fence, and nobody could see home plate from either set of bleachers on the third base side. That’s why nobody was sitting in them.
Since there will be lots of folks from all over the state (and beyond) coming to next year’s state tournament, seating will be at a premium. Perhaps more sets of bleaches, even temporary ones, should be constructed to accommodate all.
Getting back to baseball coverage, when I was a kid growing up here, I was thrilled to see my name (and sometimes my picture) in The Courier-Times. I don’t think kids today are much different in that regard than I was back then.
Scores of my Cub Scout League Baseball games were reported in the C-T, but I don’t recall many photos of them being in the paper.
The C-T sports section is like the “Mayberry Gazette” in trying to get as many of the kids’ names into the paper as possible, and as many photos as we can as space allows.
Honestly, I believe few newspapers provide the youth sports coverage we do here at the C-T, and I know nobody in the surrounding area does. I believe in giving kids their 15 minutes (or more) of fame. I believe it has more positive impact than giving a professional athlete more ink in the paper.
And having all these local sporting events available to cover makes my job so much easier. I don’t have to go out and search for stories like some writers do at other newspapers. Thank you.
Getting back to covering the baseball tournaments this summer, I had to sit on the opposing team’s bleachers among its fans for Sunday’s games on the upper diamond and got a “nice” sunburn on my left cheek.
But some good came of it, as I was able to get some viewpoints from the opposite side. One guy from Delta said, “I think this team (New Castle Green) is a lot better than us” and “I don’t think this game will last past four innings.” He was right on both accounts.
If you weren’t there for Monday evening’s championship game of the District 6 Coaches Pitch Tournament between New Castle Green and Hagerstown, you missed a treat.
No, it wasn’t perfect baseball as the kids on both sides made a couple errors here and there. But it was exciting baseball, as the outcome of the contest wasn’t decided until the very last at-bat.
For this level, in which every ball hit is an adventure, it was one of the best games played defensively that I have seen this summer. Kids were catching balls, scooping them up, and making good throws to record outs.
Coaches Pitch is a developmental league, getting players ready for the next level which is Players Pitch. Based upon what I saw Monday evening, both teams passed their final exam with flying colors.
Another thing I like about covering youth league baseball is that I can track the progress of kids as they move from Coaches Pitch to Players Pitch to Major League Little League to Babe Ruth Baseball and on to high school baseball.
I saw many of this year’s high school baseball players compete when they were in Little League.
Some players don’t stick with baseball all the way through high school for some reason, and that is their choice. But others do, and are rewarded for it.
This year’s seniors Robert Porter, Aaron Reagan, and Brock Corbett were members of that 2017 New Castle Babe Ruth Baseball team that went to the World Series out in Washington state. They stuck with the sport and helped lead Knightstown to an IHSAA baseball sectional championship and regional appearance this year.
Milwaukee won the NBA championship Tuesday night for the first time since Oscar Robertson and Kareen-Abdul Jabbar (aka Lew Alcindor) led the Bucks to an NBA title in 1971, 50 years ago.
That is a nice story, but (in my opinion) it still doesn’t trump what our local kids are doing.
My biggest challenge right now is that we have five local baseball all-star teams competing in tournaments at five different venues, and none of them are all that close to New Castle.
I do have plans to cover games Wednesday, today, and Friday, get the results, and see where to go forward from there.
The Babe Ruth Ohio Valley Regional 15U Tournament is next week here in New Castle, and the local boys are guaranteed a spot in it. After that, high school fall sports begin.
Bring it on!
David Risley is sports editor of The Courier-Times