John F. Russell: Cheering for the boys of summer
Steamboat Springs — This is what longtime baseball fan Dave Roy was going for when he brought college baseball to Steamboat Springs two summers ago.
A competitive team that a town could get behind, exciting games that made coming out to the ball field on a Saturday afternoon worth a few hours and, of course, a team with a chance of winning a title when the short summer season entered its final inning.
Well, it’s the bottom of the ninth for the Mountain West Summer Collegiate Baseball League, and things are looking good for the Steamboat Storm. To put it in terms any baseball fan would understand, the local team has the bases loaded and the squad’s top hitter is making his way to the plate.
OK, I might be stretching things a bit, but the Storm has had a great season, and thanks to a late rally Saturday that led to a win over Summit County, the team is sitting in second place in the league standings.
The Mountain West Summer Collegiate Baseball League’s end-of-season playoffs kicked off Monday with Vail taking on Summit County and Eagle Valley taking on Grand Junction in first day tournament action.
There is no question that with the team’s strong showing in the league this season, where it finished 16-14, the Storm looks like one of the favorites to do well at this year’s tournament. Nothing is ever guaranteed in sports, but coach Matt Ellinghuysen has hopes the team will play in Saturday’s championships game, and he believes the Storm has what it takes to win the whole thing.
But every sports fan knows that anything can happen in overtime and the playoffs. Just ask Carolina Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton or any of the players on the French National Soccer team that lost to Portugal in the second overtime of the UEFA European Championships Sunday.
Roy’s hope is that the Steamboat Storm’s success this season will help build a following among local baseball fans.
Ellinghuysen said the team is building a fan base, slowly. He said there were more fans at the field this year than last, and he’s hopeful that trend will continue.
Unfortunately, because of the timing of this week’s playoffs, the Storm will have to hit the road for some of the most exciting games of the season. Steamboat is hosting one of its biggest events of the summer, the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament this weekend, so the Storm’s home field will not be available.
Roy and Ellinghuysen said they knew about the scheduling conflict at the start of the season, and although they would prefer to play at home and build some excitement for the town of Steamboat, they understand the pressure for local fields. They understand why they are on the road, and it’s not all bad, according to the team’s coach.
“I’m kind of glad that we are on the road,” Ellinghuysen said. “We have played better baseball on the road this year — our numbers are better, we tend to score more runs and win more games on the road.”
If everything goes as planned, the Storm will face the No. 1-seeded Glenwood Geckos for the title and could bring our town its first Mountain West Summer Collegiate Baseball League title.
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