Stage set for return of Babe Ruth baseball to Carson Valley
Last summer, when he was coaching during the Carson Valley Junior League baseball season, Bruce Ruana couldn’t help but wonder if a different option didn’t exist.
After all, there were only two teams playing in the 15- and 16-year-old Senior League, and only four teams in the 13- and 14-year-old Junior League. He coached a Junior League all-star team that played one opponent to qualify for the state tournament at Lampe Park, where Carson Valley opened with a win over Battle Mountain (13-3) and then lost games to two Las Vegas opponents, Peccole (16-6) and Central (11-2).
“I got involved with Little League last year and was very impressed with how they did everything, but at the end of the year, I felt Little League, as a company, let those people down,” Ruana said. “This is not an indictment against Little League because it is a very good organization and I think the people who have run Junior and Senior League in this Valley have done a very good job. It’s just that, in my opinion, Little League’s product is for the age group of 13 on down. And it is a very good product, but when you look at the amount of leagues that are available to play in and the number of teams available, Little League doesn’t provide it.”
The 10-year Valley resident and sports enthusiast knew there had to be an opportunity to play more games and to play against a better variety of opposition, so he checked around. What resulted was a drive to bring Babe Ruth baseball back to the Carson Valley in the form of 13-year-old, 14- and 15-year-old programs. The possibility of organizing a Senior Babe Ruth team for 16- to 18-year-olds also exists, if enough interest is shown, according to Ruana.
“I began to contact Babe Ruth people and they’ve got 12 leagues within 50 miles of us; in the 15 and 14 year old age group, they have over 40 teams; in the 13-year-old divisions, where you have 13-year-olds playing against other 13-year-olds, there’s over 20 teams for our kids to play against, so I just felt they had a better product in this area,” Ruana said.
An introduction meeting was held Nov. 5 at Ruana’s business, Off The Front, and he was encouraged by the response.
“The support has been very good. I’m very pleased with the support out there. We’ll know more after Monday, but a lot of people who are involved with youth baseball in the Valley have contacted me and said they are in favor of this (Babe Ruth program),” Ruana said.
The picture will become more clear after Monday night, when the Carson Valley Little League holds a meeting to consider whether it wants to continue with the Junior and Senior League programs. The Carson Valley dropped Babe Ruth in favor of Junior and Senior League in 1984.
The strength of Babe Ruth baseball, Ruana feels, would be the creation of a coalition involving the programs of neighboring communities in Carson City and Lyon County.
“In other words, we’re kind of forming a coalition,” Ruana said. “I envision Douglas County will produce three teams with 14 and 15 year olds playing. I also envision Douglas County will have two teams with 13-year-olds playing in a prep league. We will have inter-league play, which will mean Douglas County against Douglas County and we will have a league championship, just like we always have. Then we will have divisional play, Douglas County versus Carson City. And then we will have out-of-division play, which will be Douglas County versus Dayton and Yerington teams. Smith Valley may even want to get involved. I haven’t even contacted anyone over there.”
The goal is to create a more extensive game schedule, he explained.
“The reason for this type of progressive league is we want to have a 24-game schedule, which is greater than they’ve ever had before,” Ruana said. “The support we’ve been getting from Carson City, Dayton and Yerington has been unbelievable. Those guys are saying, ‘We’re very pleased that Douglas County is getting involved because we feel we have a nice little geographic location that the game will thrive and grow in and we fill everything out nicely.”
The cost of participating in a travel league would obviously be higher than what the Junior and Senior League programs have cost in the past.
“It will cost between $90 and $95 a head to play a 24-game schedule and that does not include travel,” Ruana said. “The parents are going to have to be involved getting the kids to and from games. So it will be a little more expensive than it has been in the past, but I think the greater game schedule justifies that.”
Sponsors will also be needed.
“I did the numbers the other night and it looks like if we can raise about $500 per team we’re going to be OK,” Ruana said.
Youngsters who played Junior and Senior League ball in the past will all be eligible for the Babe Ruth program, including those who reside in Mono and Alpine counties on the California side and those who reside in north Douglas County. Also, Babe Ruth allows players to participate in other programs simultaneously — American Legion, Senior League and Junior League, for example.
Ruana added that other options are possible in the creation of a new program.
“I am taking it as a completely clean slate opportunity,” he said. “Because we’re starting the Babe Ruth, I think there are some unique things that we can do that might be kind of fun and interesting to do.”
Among other things, he is considering the concept of installing a wood bat rule for the Douglas County league play for at least the 14-15 year olds.
“You have a different feel for the game, a different swing, different sound,” Ruana said. “You put a wood bat in their hands and they find out what a level playing field is all about.”
He also has a different approach in regard to recruiting coaches for the league.
“I feel we need to make this thing a little bit more community oriented,” Ruana said. “I would really like to make a call to the community for people to volunteer to coach. I know this is a community with a lot of retired individuals who have a lot of experience with youth sports and youth baseball. Maybe they don’t have kids involved in the program, but they have a lot of experience teaching and coaching kids in the sport of baseball. I’d like to see some of those people step forward and get involved because I think they’re a tremendous resource in this Valley and it would be great to have them aboard.”
The bottom line is to serve the children of the Carson Valley, he emphasized.
“The biggest thing is to keep kids involved in athletics,” Ruana said. “My opinion is to keep them outside, keep them playing, keep them using their bodies, as opposed to being involved in a sedentary activity in front of a computer or listening to a CD or whatever. There’s still a place in our society for this type of youth activity and we need to promote it and teach it. But the kids have to want to be involved in the program, and the only way we can get them out is to put a good program in front of them.”
For more information about the Babe Ruth program, call Ruana at Off The Front at 782-2412.