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Thursday, Jun. 21, 2018
Baseball youngsters get their feet wet with Rookie Ball
by Randy Pascal

The Northern Elite League might not have been up and running in 2016, but that wasn’t about to deter the local “rookie ball” players, coaches and fans.

The folks involved with both the Valley East Renegades and Sudbury Shamrocks managed to convince their counterparts from North Bay and Sault Ste Marie to spend this past weekend in the Nickel City, enjoying a friendly round-robin environment that included barbeques, and plenty of chances to forge new friendships.

With provincial championships right around the corner, it was also an opportunity for the baseball youngsters to work on improving their game. A first baseman, primarily, with the Shamrocks, nine year old Colton Audette was more than ready to tackle specific areas of his defensive skill-set.

“I have to always keep my eye on the ball, always watch the play, and just roll with it,” he said. “Sometimes, when it’s a pop fly, I call the ball, or get the ground balls and touch my bag. Sometimes, I’ll just go to my bag, and leave the ball for the second baseman.”

At the plate, the “rookie ball” crew benefit from the consistency of a pitching machine, as they try to incorporate the key elements needed to become a solid hitter. “Hitting the ball is harder,” acknowleged Audette. “Sometimes, when I try and hit the ball, I look away.”

Across the diamond, Valley East pitcher (at least, occupying the defensive position right next to the pitching machine) Zach Charette admits that he likes to let loose, to some extent, when the bat is in hand.

“I watch the ball, and if I get my pitch, I swing,” said the nine year-old, competing at this level for the very first time. “I will usually do one “power swing”. If it doesn’t work out on one or two power swings, then I’ll do my normal swing. Eventually, I’ll hit it.”

Pressed further to outline exactly what constitutes a “power swing”, Charette elaborated, noting the mechanics that might allow him to circle the bases. “I almost got a home run once in rec ball, until the coach stopped me, but I didn’t blame him,” stated the animated youngster.

“I’m just trying to hit a straight line drive, just over the shortstop. Most outfielders think that the hitters will hit it right in the middle, to center field. I want to hit to shortstop, because behind him, there’s an outfielder who doesn’t know it’s coming.”

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