By Ray Hamill — It’s going to be an historic summer for a group of local all-stars, as they get set to go where no team from Humboldt County has gone in decades.
This year, for the first time in a quarter century, the Cutten Ridgewood Recreation Association Cal Ripken Baseball League will send an 8U all-star team to the Cal Ripken NorCal tournament.
The team is made up of the best 8U players in the league, which is growing in stature and featured 30 teams this year from 12U down to T-Ball.
The state tournament gets under way on June 24, and this week the young players prepared by playing a scrimmage against some of the older kids in the league, matching up well against their more experienced opponents.
“What I like about these kids is that they’re eager to learn,” head coach John McGinnis said. “They’re very coachable.”
The 14-player roster has plenty of balance and should be competitive in all facets of the game.
Axel Atkins, Bentley Palmer, Elyas Moon, Chayce McGinnis, Jeremy Sanders and Wyatt Korsten all can pitch and will give their coaches plenty of options on the mound.
Sanders, who hits in the lead-off spot, recently showcased the all-around athletic talent on the team by placing fifth at the state wrestling tournament.
“We have a pretty good pitching staff of young hurlers,” the coach said. “They’re rambunctious, they’ve got great arms, and they’ve got a good baseball IQ.
“And we’ve got some big hitters.”
The Cutten Ridgewood Recreation Association Cal Ripken Baseball League is a co-ed baseball league for players aged 4 to 12 and has been competing for over 25 years.
The league is split into four divisions — the Majors for 11- and 12-year-olds; the Minors for 7-10s; the Rookies for 5-6; and T-ball for 4-5.
“The big thing for us is it’s all inclusive,” John McGinnis said. “Everybody plays all the time.”
According to league president Steve Ritter, this is the first league all-star team in 25 years.
The local Cal Ripken league featured 346 players this spring, almost double the number from pre-COVID days.
“We’re trying to develop the program a little, so these kids get a better experience playing,” Ritter said.
The NorCal tournament will take place in Elk Grove and runs for a week, with the winning team advancing to the Cal Ripken Regional tournament in Rohnert Park in July, which will feature the top young teams from Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Hawaii and California.
The winning team at the regional tournament will advance to the association’s World Series.
“We really are looking forward to the experience with these young ball players and having some fun playing this great game against some of the best ball players in NorCal at the 8U level,” John McGinnis said.
The all-star squad also includes Ora Sizemore, Liam Starry-Thomas, Edward Rich, Jack Wentworth, Ryden Sizemore, Sebastian Agricola, Emory Thoreson-Veeh and Nicholas McEuen-Vader.
They open against Windsor at 3 p.m. on June 24.