COVID-19 has affected the lives of everyone; young, middle-aged and old. People have to change their routines, kids are learning online instead of in the classroom, wearing masks outside and can’t get as much exercise as they are used to. This is why Coach/Organizer Erik Tucker and President Dylan McReynolds decided to start a non-profit called Rohnert Park Baseball Club.
This non-profit is designed to work in conjunction with the Cal Ripken Little League. They use the same fields, have most of the same athletes and coaches. RPBC allows young boys the opportunity to get out of the house and play a sport they love.
“This is an All-Star Team for Cal Ripken, but it’s open to anyone who wants to come out,” McReynolds said. “We’ve always had all-star teams in the fall that we do with Cal Ripken, but since there was no summer league, we started this early. Meaning what we usually do in the fall we started in the spring.”
McReynolds said this is a way for those youngsters who want to play traveling baseball year-round to do so, while also allowing those who just want to play baseball in the summer or fall to also participate.
He went on to explain how focused the players are now. This was described by McReynolds as the silver lining of the pandemic. It taught the boys more respect and allowed them to get closer as a family.
“Honestly, as a coach this has been some of the best communication with these young boys I’ve ever had because they seem to be more focused during the unfortunate pandemic,” McReynolds said. “When they come out, they are learning other skills besides just baseball; they’re learning how to look adults in the eyes and communicate.”
This specific camp, called CrossFire, was a basic clinic for infield and outfield. The boys went through infield drills, like ground balls, double plays and outfield drills like fly balls and hitting the cutoff man.
The boys were broken up into two groups, 8-10 and 11-13. The 8-10 groups went from 9-11 a.m., while age 11-13 went from 12-2 p.m. The hour break allowed the coaches to sanitize everything from the bats to the balls.
Another cool aspect is how each group stayed together the whole time. The boys were broken up into groups and the coaches stayed with them the whole time. There were four stations and when the boys would switch the coaches would take the bats, balls and gloves with them as a way to avoid contamination.
The organizer of this event, Erik Tucker, said the idea came about as a way to focus on a group which hasn’t gotten as much attention. Tucker talked about his experience coaching 11-year-olds and wanting to expand opportunities to a younger demographic.
“We’ve been putting together practices to keep the kids active and wanted to reach out to a different age group we felt hasn’t had any baseball activity,” Tucker said. “I coach 11- and 12-year olds and we just wanted to reach out to a younger group and get them involved in baseball. Tucker said the turnout for Saturday’s clinic was very good. They had 25 kids in the 8-10 age and 25 in the 11-13 group.
“We only wanted to keep it at 30 just so we can have quality reps and individual work to really focus on the kids, so we were just short of our max,” Tucker said.
Rohnert Park Baseball Club will continue to work with the Cal Ripken League since Cal Ripken has the rights to the fields and most of the boys there Sunday are associated with Cal Ripken.
A big reason why Tucker and McReynolds chose to form this non-profit was so the fields at Benicia Park would be used.
McReynolds said Cal Ripken is shut down because of COVID and the fields aren’t being used so RPBC applied for a non-profit license and received one.
Tucker said he sees this camp continuing even after COVID is done because of the opportunity it provides the boys.
“There’s no competition, it’s all about skill development and just giving the kids something to do instead of playing video games all day,” Tucker said. “The whole idea is just skill development.”
“Cal Ripken owns the rights to the field so when they are finished, we will use it,” Tucker said. “This is the first-year travel ball has gotten a permit to use the fields, so we hope this is something we can build on.”