With 21 children to line the bench, ranging from age 8 to 12, Challis Little League coach Bryce Jones said with some help they all have the potential to be impressive baseball players.
Because youth baseball is about preparing players for what they’ll see in middle and high school, Jones said the focus is on fundamentals. Making sure players memorize the correct ways to hit, throw and catch takes precedence over winning in this age bracket, according to Jones.
However, Jones admitted with a smirk, he can be very competitive, so he still wants players to be successful on the field. It’s important the kids have fun and get rewarded for the time they put in, Jones said, but winning is what makes sports more fun.
According to players Rebekka Hill, 12, and Trinity Beason, 11, they’ve had nothing but fun so far. Only a few weeks into their season, the two players said they want to take what they’ve been practicing into a game. They got their first chance last week against Mackay youths, and will get another tomorrow against Salmon.
Jones said games are good experience for tournaments they’ll play in later this summer. That’s when they’ll get to show off their more competitive sides. No one kept score in the Mackay game. A big part of playing youth baseball is just playing the game, Jones said, which helps children find out if it is a hobby they want to pursue.
A challenge to helping kids find out if baseball is for them is going through the early growing pains. The coach said a lot of his players are first-timers on the field, and some of them need more help than others. Sometimes new players show an aptitude for baseball early on.
As he worked with pitcher Archer Davis, 12, Jones said he’s shown a lot of improvement the last few weeks, despite this being his first time in the position. The improvement comes from making sure Davis and fellow pitcher Bryant Mitchell, 11, get the movements down for throwing a good pitch, which Jones repeatedly demonstrated to them as they warmed up their throwing arms.
“All the way and touch the grass,” Jones said as he mocked following through on a pitch. Copying their coach, Davis and Mitchell progressively brushed their fingers against the grass more as they practiced.
Also helping the improvement along are local community members, Jones said. As Davis practiced his pitch, his dad Cameron threw pop flies to other players. He’s not technically a coach, Jones said, just a dad willing to volunteer his time.
“People like that are a big help,” Jones said.