Summer swings help sharpen skills

School’s out, but baseball games are being played across the area


Lee Martin, coach of the 18-and-under Batter’s Box summer club baseball team, has a very convincing argument for why high school-age athletes should play summer ball.

“First of all is to keep the reps going,” he said. “Baseball and golf, in my opinion, are the two sports that if you don’t keep repetitions going and continue to work, the minute you put the tools down, they don’t work real well.”

There are many Colorado baseball players spending time this summer refining their skills on club teams, with as many as 50 games in a two-month span.

There were 60 teams playing in two divisions of the Cherry Creek Classic June 8-11, and the games were played at 17 high school diamonds around the Denver area.

“The main thing about summer baseball is you get like-ability players and they play against other players that are as good or better than they are,” Slammers Martin coach Billy Martin said.

“In high school baseball, there are good players on every team, but when the club teams are put together correctly there are not many holes in them and most of the time players are facing better pitching, and when that happens it just makes the players better.”

Rosters of club teams are filled with players from different high school programs. Additional benefits of playing summer baseball are better competition, weather and exposure.

“It’s just a lot of games we get to play,” said Slammers Martin catcher Noah Kuzma, a senior-be-be at Valor Christian. “In the spring, we usually play 19, and if you are lucky you will play in the 20s. We’ve played 18 games already and we’ll play through July 24.”

Cherry Creek U18 coach Marc Johnson said players and college scouts learn a lot during the summer.

“It’s a short season, sort of like the high school season, but the weather is so much better than in the spring,” he said. “You’ll end up knocking off 50 games in a two-month period with the tournaments on the weekends. It’s not uncommon to play five to seven games on a weekend.

“Players get to see lots of different kinds of pitchers: righthanders, lefthanders, hard and soft. And it’s a huge advantage when the college scouts can see you. Colleges are playing during the high school season. And, if they are in the playoffs now, they can see us yet. We had probably 10 to 15 Division I scouts here this weekend. It’s their chance to get out and see some kids.”

Lighting U18 coach Dave Tucker hasn’t forgotten about the love of the game.

“In our program, first and foremost, our focus is still always fun,” he said. “Each of our teams have 15 four-hour practices throughout the summer... We set our schedules up especially so we can have two morning workouts a week. We want players to have fun and put them in the most competitive situations we can throughout the summer and then still develop them.”

Another factor that helps players develop in the summer is that wooden bats are used in most tournaments.

Teams have to hit-and-run, bunt, advance runners and play something other than long ball. And, pitchers who make good pitches are more often rewarded.

“It’s definitely harder to hit with a wood bat, and a mistake pitch can be caught at the warning track instead of going out of the park,” Kuzma said. “It is harder to hit with a wood bat but it makes you a lot better hitter.”

Cherry Creek centerfielder Tanner O’Tremba agrees.

“It’s really different because with metal you can get beat and still do well but with wood it really shows up,” he said. “There’s no room for error when you a hitting with a wood bat. There are definitely a lot less home runs that are hit.

“The biggest thing about summer is you getting the play like a major leaguer would. It makes you a lot better since you get to play so much. You are playing every day and get the see what real baseball looks like.”

The Slammers Martin U17 team won the Qualifier Division of the Cherry Creek Classic with a 16-1 win over the Creek U18 team. This was a qualifying tournament, with two teams advancing to the Connie Mack South Plains Regional tournament, which will be held July 18-23 in Enid, Oklahoma.

Cherry Creek will play in Enid, but the Slammers Martin team will instead be playing in the U17 Perfect Game World Series July 20-24 in Phoenix.

Slammers Bauer, an U18 team, will replace Slammers Martin in the Enid tourney.

In the non-qualifier division championship game, Elite Baseball defeated the Gillette (Wyoming) Riders 9-4.

Batter’s Box summer club baseball team, baseball, Cherry Creek Classic , Colorado baseball , Jim Benton


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