New collegiate baseball league has teams from Vail, Gypsum
EDWARDS — While Arizona and Florida may be known for their spring training, come summertime, those places aren’t so pleasant for baseball.
College players from warm states who are trying to keep their skills up during June and July would much rather be playing here in the mountains, but there was never a league for them in our area. It’s a paradox Joseph LaFebre was well aware of when he decided to start up the Mountain West Summer Collegiate Wood Bat Baseball League this year.
Consisting of six teams based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the league began in June and will run until July 20 featuring a schedule of 32 to 36 games including a postseason tournament. The league is open to any college baseball player with eligibility remaining.
Eagle County has two teams, one based out of Gypsum — the Eagle Valley Eagles, who play home games at Eagle Valley High School — and the Vail Vipers, who play home games at Battle Mountain High School.
On Saturday, the Vipers made the trip to Grand Junction to take on their team, the Rocky Mountain Oysters.
“It’s just beautiful up here, I love it,” Vipers manager David Weber said after game one of a double header, in which the Vipers won 6-5. “I’ve never been to the mountains before — 85 degrees up here actually feels cool.”
NEED HOST FAMILIES
Weber coaches baseball at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. Other players on the team are from Arizona, California and Florida. League organizers want to integrate players and teams into the communities where they play.
“We are looking for these incoming players to become a part of the community, with the teams offering clinics for local youngsters, inviting kids to the games and workouts, and encouraging local players to pursue dreams of playing beyond high school and at the next level,” LeFebre said. “In order to accomplish these goals, our greatest need at the moment is to identify and enlist host families for the college players.”
Currently, most of the teams have found host families, but the Vail team still has guys staying in hotels. Officials hope that anyone with a love of amateur sports will step up to the plate, to use a baseball pun, and host one or two players.
“We are hoping to place players with families who have young children currently playing baseball in local leagues in each of these communities,” LeFebre said. “We expect these college players to be significant role models and mentors to the younger players in each of the markets.”
Players play six games per week, broken up into three days of doubleheaders. Like anyone visiting the high country, the baseball players have had to acclimate to the elevation.
“The ball flies a lot farther off the bat,” Weber said Saturday. “The guys in the outfield have had to adjust to that, but the guys at the plate love it.”
The play is fast and professional, with wood bats making the cracking sounds for which baseball is known. The other great traits of the game are there, as well — in the first game of Saturday’s double header, a dropped line drive was turned into a double play, the winning run was scored while another runner was caught in a pickle between second and third, and one of the final outs was registered during a first-third double steal gone wrong.
Games are seven innings and start at noon and roughly 2:30 p.m., going until about 5 p.m. Both the Vipers and Eagles have two more doubleheaders at home before the end-of-season tournament begins. Spectators are encouraged to attend. For more information on the new league, visit http://www.mtwestsummer collegebaseball.com.