By Ray Hamill — A couple of little changes have led to big success for the Northern Humboldt Steelheads 13U baseball team this year.
The Steelheads closed out an impressive fall season last weekend, placing second at a tournament in Martinez.
And more impressively, they close out the year ranked No. 2 in the state among their peers.
“The thing I like about this team is they’re kind of a hodgepodge of kids from Del Norte, McKinleyville and Arcata, and they’re all learning to play as a team,” head coach Damian Karrer said. “What we’ve been really stressing this year is playing as a team.”
It appears to be working too, with the Steelheads rising through the AA ranks and making a huge leap for a team that was ranked No. 158 a year ago.
“It’s kind if cool for the kids to get that ranking,” Karrer said.
An emphasis on teamwork wasn’t the only change to pay dividends for the team this year, and a couple of weekly trips to The Club in McKinleyville, which opened in the summer, to work with their strength and conditioning coach Jennifer Enos has been hugely beneficial, according to the coach.
Enos runs a sports performance class at The Club focusing on broadening young athletes training regiments so they can develop into more well-rounded athletes.
“It’s been amazing what they’ve done,” he said of Enos and the gym. “What we did this year is we eliminated some practices in the field and went to focus more on that.”
And the difference has been noticeable among the players, who all seem to love it.
In their season finale, the Steelheads fell 9-0 to a AAA team, the East Bay Bandits, in the championship game at Martinez.
“They had a legitimate pitcher who just shut us down,” Karrer said. “(Our players) will come back. It’ll make them better. This is why we travel down to play these tournaments.”
The team has traveled to compete in 10 tournaments this year, placing second in most of them, according to their coach.
The 13Us are one of five teams in the Steelheads organization, which has grown in stature and numbers since the baseball club was founded four years ago.
The 13Us are the original club team, and Karrer has seen them develop since they first came together as nine- and 10-year-olds.
“The kids are feeling more confident on the field,” he said. “It’s been really neat watching them improve and grow and learn to play as a team.”
The Steelheads will take a break from games until the spring.