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Mountain Magic baseball ramps up for another year in Routt County

Steamboat Sailors 14s player Quintin White takes in some batting practice at the indoor hitting facility near the Steamboat Springs Airport. The annual summer Triple Crown baseball tournament begins Friday in Steamboat, Hayden, Craig and Oak Creek.
Ben Ingersoll

Triple Crown Mountain Magic No. 1 schedule

Steamboat Sailors 14s

■ 8 a.m. Friday: Field 1 at Dry Creek (Hayden) vs. Casper Crush

■ 12:30 p.m. Friday: Field 1 at Dry Creek (Hayden) vs. Highlands Ranch Huskies

■ 8 a.m. Saturday: Strawberry Field vs. Slammers Kiel

■ 10:15 a.m. Saturday: Strawberry Field vs. Utah Havoc

■ Sunday: Bracket play starts at 8 a.m. at Howelsen Hill

Steamboat Sailors 12s

■ 9 a.m. Friday: Field 3 at Loudy-Simpson Park vs. North Thornton Bombers

■ 1:15 p.m. Friday: Field 3 at Loudy-Simpson Park vs. GJ Mavs

■ 8 a.m. Saturday: Vanatta Field at Howelsen vs. Thunder BOLTS

■ 10 a.m. Saturday: Vanatta Field at Howelsen vs. Creek Flash

■ Sunday: Bracket play starts at 8 a.m. at Strawberry Field

Steamboat Sailors 11s

■ 9 a.m. Friday: Field 2 at Dry Creek (Hayden) vs. Creek Flash

■ 11 a.m. Friday: Field 2 at Dry Creek (Hayden) vs. Broomfield Thunder Express

■ 8 a.m. Saturday: Klumker Field at Howelsen vs. Warriors Elite Blaze

■ Noon Saturday: Klumker Field at Howelsen vs. Parker Bearcats

■ Sunday: Bracket play starts at 8 a.m. at Field 2 at Dry Creek (Hayden)

Steamboat Sailors 10s

■ 8:30 a.m. Friday: West Field (Hayden) vs. Cheyenne Raptors

■ 12:45 p.m. Friday: West Field (Hayden) vs. Gameday Falcons

■ 8:30 a.m. Saturday: West Field (Hayden) vs. South Jeffco Dust Devils

■ 10:30 a.m. Saturday: East Field (Hayden) vs. Thunder Cats

■ Sunday: Bracket play starts at 8 a.m. at North Field at Ski Town

— Steamboat youth baseball coach Rob Fitzhugh is well aware of the talent — and consequently, the challenges — that rolls into Routt County every summer for Triple Crown action.

Triple Crown Mountain Magic No. 1 schedule

Steamboat Sailors 14s

■ 8 a.m. Friday: Field 1 at Dry Creek (Hayden) vs. Casper Crush



■ 12:30 p.m. Friday: Field 1 at Dry Creek (Hayden) vs. Highlands Ranch Huskies

■ 8 a.m. Saturday: Strawberry Field vs. Slammers Kiel



■ 10:15 a.m. Saturday: Strawberry Field vs. Utah Havoc

■ Sunday: Bracket play starts at 8 a.m. at Howelsen Hill

Steamboat Sailors 12s

■ 9 a.m. Friday: Field 3 at Loudy-Simpson Park vs. North Thornton Bombers

■ 1:15 p.m. Friday: Field 3 at Loudy-Simpson Park vs. GJ Mavs

■ 8 a.m. Saturday: Vanatta Field at Howelsen vs. Thunder BOLTS

■ 10 a.m. Saturday: Vanatta Field at Howelsen vs. Creek Flash

■ Sunday: Bracket play starts at 8 a.m. at Strawberry Field

Steamboat Sailors 11s

■ 9 a.m. Friday: Field 2 at Dry Creek (Hayden) vs. Creek Flash

■ 11 a.m. Friday: Field 2 at Dry Creek (Hayden) vs. Broomfield Thunder Express

■ 8 a.m. Saturday: Klumker Field at Howelsen vs. Warriors Elite Blaze

■ Noon Saturday: Klumker Field at Howelsen vs. Parker Bearcats

■ Sunday: Bracket play starts at 8 a.m. at Field 2 at Dry Creek (Hayden)

Steamboat Sailors 10s

■ 8:30 a.m. Friday: West Field (Hayden) vs. Cheyenne Raptors

■ 12:45 p.m. Friday: West Field (Hayden) vs. Gameday Falcons

■ 8:30 a.m. Saturday: West Field (Hayden) vs. South Jeffco Dust Devils

■ 10:30 a.m. Saturday: East Field (Hayden) vs. Thunder Cats

■ Sunday: Bracket play starts at 8 a.m. at North Field at Ski Town

Students of the game as old as 14 and as young as the under-9 class flock to Steamboat, Hayden, Craig and Oak Creek each summer, and they aren’t just here on vacation.

They come to win, and in years past, they also have come with a wealth of tournament-level experience pretty much foreign to Steamboat squads in the mid- to late-spring part of the season.

“It definitely attracts really good teams from all over,” said Fitzhugh, Steamboat’s 14s coach. “Obviously, those teams aren’t just traveling here to show up. They are here to play good baseball and win the tournament.”

Playing to win it all at the Mountain Magic tourneys is surely one of the goals for Sailors teams on the diamond, but it hasn’t been done just yet.

But youth baseball has taken a different face as late spring turns into early summer in the county, especially for younger players.

Before the first pitch this season, the local league dropped its Little League affiliation and opted to brand its own Yampa Valley Youth Baseball. With the new league came its own rules and regulations, shifts that Fitzhugh hopes will make an immediate short-term impact in big-time tournaments, such as Mountain Magic, and that he strongly feels will benefit youth baseball players in the long run.

Fitzhugh said that before this year, the older group of players (14s and 13s) had a difficult time finding serious competition before Triple Crown ramped up. They’d scramble together pickup games or talk teams into doubleheaders, only to get blown out come tournament time.

This go-around, the 14s team played three major tournaments in May alone and is coming off a strong showing in a tournament last weekend in Eagle.

“It’s the earliest they’ve started and the earliest they’ve seen tournament baseball,” Fitzhugh said. “This group in particular (the 14s) is tournament experienced more than they have ever been coming into these next two weeks. It helps them under pressure and being in big moments, moments they wouldn’t have been in the past.”

And for the younger players, Yampa Valley Youth Baseball is prepping them for a bigger stage — and a bigger field.

Gone are the days of Little League restraints in Steamboat, where space between bases is only 60 feet long and the mound is closer to home plate. The new league conforms to Triple Crown’s 70-foot bases and 54-foot mound distance.

“The regular season, the younger guys especially, has better prepared them because they are playing this baseball already,” Fitzhugh said. “The hope for that, of course, is being better prepared and the results will show in years to come.”

It’s a Mountain Magic field that is as stacked as usual, especially with in the younger classes.

The Steamboat Sailors are fielding four squads in the opening weekend under the 14s, 12s, 11s and 10s age groups. The 11s and 10s have the deepest field of any of the six classes, with 21 teams competing through Sunday in each. The 13s have 18 teams, the 12s have 11 and the 9s have nine.

“The guys are looking forward to showing what they’ve been working on all spring so far and the opportunity to demonstrate that in front of family and friends,” Fitzhugh said. “We want to put on a good face for Steamboat baseball.”

Group play begins at 8 a.m. Friday and runs through Saturday. The top five teams from each classification advance to Sunday’s bracket play.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll


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