Saturday, July 10, 2010

Three's company: Spring Youth Baseball looking to challenge Dodgers and Royals in Troy's crowded summer baseball scene

Spring Youth Baseball has taught the youngsters of the Collar City the game of baseball for many years, but the organization is now hoping to extend its offerings to Troy's teenagers as well.

Members of the Troy Renegades 15-and-under baseball team run sprints during a practice Wednesday evening at the Turnpike Elementary School Field in Lansingburgh. (All photos by J.S. Carras - The Record).

I spent part of this week investigating the rise of the Spring Youth Baseball program this week and found the 15-and-under Troy Renegades travel team a particularly interesting example of what the organization has to offer. For the full story, pick up a copy of Sunday's edition of The Record.

Greg Scott throws batting practice for the Troy Renegades during Wednesday's practice at Turnpike Elementary School in Lansingburgh.

For the Renegades, the story starts at their local Little League fields in Lansingburgh, Brunswick and Twin Town, just to name a few. But around the age of 10 or 11 - about five years ago - this team came together at Spring Youth Baseball, near the Emma Willard School campus in Troy.

The players and their parents believed that Spring would offer them a better challenge on the diamond than they would receive elsewhere.

As 12-year-olds, they finished in third place in a qualifying tournament for the Cal Ripken World Series. A year later, they won the 13-and-under AABC World Series in Michigan. Last year, the team was seeded first after pool play in a World Series in Lynchburg, Va.

This summer, the Renegades are headed to a national tournament in Nashville, which starts this week. They also hope to clinch a berth to the AABC World Series in Owasso, Oklahoma, which begins in early August.

From left to right, Troy Renegades teammates Ryan McGrath, Greg Ruddy and Greg Hotaling, take a moment to chat with The Record following Wednesday's practice.

Ultimately, Spring Youth Baseball is hoping that the pioneering Renegades pave the way for baseball for players aged four through 18 at Spring in the near future.

Spring is planning to construct two or three more smaller fields to give more opportunities to the four to eight year-old players just learning the game.

Spring will also have a permanent home for its 13-and-older teams with a 90-foot diamond somewhere in the city in 2011. They hope to draw some of the top teams from the Northeast to Troy for games, just like their neighbors, the Lansingburgh Royals and the South Troy Dodgers.

Is it a crazy idea? Sure it is. The Capital Region has an established path for talented players to follow to college baseball and beyond, but the folks at Spring seriously believe that they have the energy and the passion necessary to push a brand-new program for teenagers into the stratosphere of local baseball.

"I told these kids, as long as you’re having fun and you continue to do it, I’ll use every ounce of vacation I have you," said head coach Kevin McGrath. "I’m also on the City Council, which is a job in itself.

"I miss a couple of meetings here and there, but it’s worth it," he continued. "You only get one shot, you really do. So it’s worth it. To see these kids start to get looked at by colleges, it’s worth it. It really is."

Kevin McGrath oversees practice Wednesday evening as head coach of the Troy Renegades 15-and-under baseball team.

Greg Ruddy throws extra baseballs in a bucket. A rising junior at Troy High, Ruddy is wearing his breast cancer awareness t-shirt, a cause of great importance to the Troy High program.

It will be interesting to monitor Spring's progress over the years and see if they can meet the ambitious goals they've set out to accomplish. Again, for the full story, check out Sunday's edition of The Record.

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