The Rohnert Park Cal Ripken All Stars baseball team 10-year-old league will be traveling to Central California next week, advancing for the third time to the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament in an attempt to get a chance to play in nationals after winning the State Tournament in Oakland last month.
The team will be traveling to Visalia next Sunday, where they will get a chance to play four games, where if they win the championship, they then will move onto the U 10 worldseries, according to Chris Vachini, team manager.
Even though the weather forecast for the Visalia area calls for 100-105 degree temperatures, games will not be put on hold due to heat and will instead be played in the evening hours, according to Coach Jason Bradley.
“It’s going to be hot, we’re hearing 100 or 105… and we’ll try to do our games in the evening around 5:00 or 7:30 p.m. that way it’s kind of in the evening to where it is not so hot,” Bradley said.
In order to get to this point in the tournament, the team of 12 boys in uniforms of red and blue had to come back from a two game loss in the State Tournament.
“Into the championship round we had to be beaten twice, we were flat, I showedy I was nervous, my wife told me to walk away, but when I came back, the boys were sitting and they were calm… they were laughing, they were all focused and just having fun,” Vachini said. “So that made me feel great going into the last game, they came out and played their game and won the game.”
Maria Rodnick, whose son plays as a catcher and first baseman, said she was proud of how the team came together to play and win the game to move onto the regional tournament.
“They had gone undefeated all week, then they lost the first two games, but the parents and the team did everything to keep spirits high. But they supported each other and love each other. It gives me goosebumps when they play, they play like brothers and they play with integrity,” Rodnick said.
To get ready for the next round of games in the regionals, where they lost last year’s final game by one run, the coach and team manager are putting the boys through their usual two-three hour practice twice a week, Bradley said.
Practices include working on plays, defense and working on a cool-down conditioning sessions for the last 20 minutes of practice, according to Bradley, who was mowing the grass to ready the field for practice.
“We’ll do defense, infield, outfield, we’ll do a lot of that everyday for about two hours then we’ll probably hit for about another hour and then we do a lot of training, working on the body, a lot of conditioning. We’ll do some running, push-ups and planks just to get their body ready,” Bradley said.
Sarah Ziese, parent of a new left fielder on the team, said it is her son’s first time being on the team and that their method of practice is much different compared to other teams.
“It is so fun to watch them, they have a certain way of practicing, they do conditioning and it is very rigorous. It drops my jaw how hard these guys work, they are so dedicated.” Ziese said.
In terms of coaching, Bradley’s main goals in guiding the team during the tournament, include making sure the boys keep a positive mindset and reminding them the importance of playing how they play.
“I will just tell them, play U 10 ball, don’t let anything else get in our way. Play our baseball, do what we do and we’ll be fine,” Bradley said.
If the team gets flustered during a game, Bradley said that he reassures the team with similar words and trying to keep up the positive spirit.
“We try to get them back up, hyped up. Mentally, they are 10-years-old, so they can sometimes fall off the truck and we just got to talk to them and get them back on the truck and have positive thought,” he said.
While every team member isn’t guaranteed a chance to play in the game, according to Bradley, they will work hard to try and have every player get a chance to be a part of the regional games, and play.
“We’ll definitely certainly try to get them all in, sometimes some only get to hit, some only see defense, but we’ll definitely try to get them all in,” Bradley said.
After coming so close to winning last year’s regionals, Bradley said the team is ready and excited to come back and “have something to prove.”
“Last year we were a run short of going to the championship game in Utah, so we’re back this year and they have something to prove. They felt they didn’t play hard enough when you fall short of one run,” Bradley said.
Win or lose the next round of games, Vachini said he couldn’t be more proud of how far the boys have come and how hard they work, noting the connectivity that all players share with each other as an important key to their success.
“They’ve worked very hard to get where they’re at, they’re a great group and we are proud. We stay like a family and that is the key to it all, they’re all into they all want to work hard. There is not a kid on this team that doesn’t want to put in the effort and doesn’t go home and hit and play catch with their dad and do extra work,” Vachini said. “They’ve been working their butts off.”
According to Bradley the team is excited and third baseman Seiji Harris said he too was excited to get to play in the regionals.
If the team wins the next four game championship in Visalia, then they will travel to Hammond, Indiana for the world series.