John F. Russell: Building tradition one swing at a time |

John F. Russell: Building tradition one swing at a time

Earlier this week, the members of the Steamboat Springs High School baseball team defeated Battle Mountain in the team’s final league contest of the season.

The good news was that the Sailors rolled to an 18-7 victory in Minturn; the bad news is that the game had little meaning for either team.

Steamboat will play two more games this season, a doubleheader Saturday against Resurrection Christian, before the 2004 campaign comes to an end. That same week, teams such as Delta, Rifle and, most likely, Palisade will open the playoffs.

Missing the playoffs was a disappointing end for the Sailors’ six seniors and the coaching staff who had hoped for more this year.

During the past couple of weeks, it became clear the playoffs were slipping away.

Steamboat did collect seven wins this season, and the squad has a chance to go 9-10 overall this season. While some teams would consider the mark mediocre, it’s the best ever for a team from Steamboat.

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It gives the Sailors a shot at placing fourth in the Western Slope standings. Last year, that would have earned the team a shot at the postseason, but this year, only the top three teams from the Western Slope advanced.

So the Sailors will have to wait for the playoffs. But it’s not disappointing.

Before this year’s team took the field, the most games the Sailors had won in a single season was four.

That’s why nobody in Colorado is surprised that Steamboat Springs is not baseball central.

The truth is that most people are surprised that we even play baseball in Steamboat in the spring; the fields typically are snow-covered.

To be competitive, Steamboat also must overcome squads from Rifle and Moffat County that have longstanding baseball traditions.

I learned a long time ago never to underestimate the power of tradition when it comes to sports.

But in Steamboat you will never hear coach Sean Hicks or his players use Steamboat’s wintry weather as an excuse. They love baseball and can’t see any reason why they can’t be competitive with larger, more experienced programs.

To them, the snow is simply an inconvenience. The players understand that a baseball will bounce differently off the hardwood floor of a gymnasium than it does off the fresh dirt surface of an infield. But they don’t understand how that factors into winning and losing.

They also understand that Steamboat is missing the history and tradition that breeds success — but they are holding out hope that will come.

Maybe last Tuesday’s 18-7 win over Battle Mountain didn’t impact the league standings the way the Steamboat players had hoped, but that win, along with the six others Steamboat has collected this season, will form the building blocks of a successful program.

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