By Ray Hamill — They were denied the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd for much of the summer, and they were criticized for traveling to play, but there’s no denying what an incredible group this year’s Humboldt Eagles 19Us were and what a successful campaign it was.
All they wanted to do was play baseball, and the fact they got to do so makes it a successful season on its own.
But what should not be lost in the story of the 2020 Humboldt Eagles — a story that will be remembered hand in hand with the coronavirus — is just how good they were.
This was a group of local all-stars, featuring players from seven of the nine H-DNL baseball programs, and a group that lived up to the billing as one of the best young all-local baseball squads this area has ever put together.
We haven’t always had a 19U American Legion team in Humboldt, and after watching these guys for the past couple of years you have to wonder why not.
Not only were they were good — with a record of 34-10 going into the final day of the season on Sunday — but they were fun to watch.
Right from the get-go.
They came ready to play, storming out of the gates in mid-season form despite not having played all spring.
That not only set the tone for the summer but it served as a testament to these players and how much they love the game and how much work they clearly had put in during the long lockdown.
The roster featured phenomenal pitching, the depth of which we may not see the likes of together on the same local team for some time.
Caleb Ruiz, Merek Sears, Cameron Saso and Nick Dugan are all outstanding aces, while players like CJ Van Meter, Hayden Bode, Corbin Eichin, Bode Joyner and Lane Thrap all had huge contributions on the mound and elsewhere.
And it wasn’t just the pitching that impressed, with the offense exploding late in the campaign and a pretty consistent defense for most of the summer, despite not being allowed to practice for the past month.
The ever-reliable Landon Gomes and Jaden Gorge were brilliantly consistent in all aspects of the game all summer long, as expected, while younger players like Keenan Morris and Cole Ayala suggested they have a very bright future in the game, along with Parker Rodgers and Branson Gans, arguably the two most improved players on the entire roster this year.
Zac Anderson and Drew Nylander each also enjoyed strong debut seasons with the team, while youngsters Alex Gorge and Cayden Lee joined the Eagles late in the campaign and had an immediate impact.
All in all, it was a very good summer for the team — and for the record not a single case of COVID-19 despite playing every week.
It was also a team that was denied the opportunity to play for an American Legion state championship, something they no doubt would have contended for.
That, however, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a very successful season.
These players just wanted to play baseball, and they got to do that, and that makes it a very successful season on its own.