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Little League gaining momentum

Aspen Times Staff Report

Little League baseball made its debut in the valley recently as the Three Rivers Little League began play in early May, giving a slew of area youngsters the chance, possibly, to make it to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

The idea for the league was hatched years ago in the mind of Mark Hinch.

Like many locals, Hinch was frustrated with the lackluster organization and poor level of competition afforded to kids who wanted to play real, hard-nosed baseball, but were forced to settle for the only valleywide recreational baseball league.

In Hinch’s mind it was time that a real, sanctioned Little League was put into play.

A lot of people had talked about starting a league, but no one had done anything about it, so Hinch and his wife Eileen started working the phones and meeting with local parents and Little League officials. As a result of their efforts, the Three Rivers Little League was sanctioned to start this spring.

After a series of spring storms blew through in the month of April, Hinch and his army of volunteers worked to get Crawford Field in El Jebel ready to host a league of its own.

So far, league officials report the league has been a smashing success, drawing large crowds of fans and family members who fill the bleachers to cheer for their teams.

The baseball that is being played in the valley now is baseball in its purest form, according to Hinch and other Little League organizers.

It is played for the joy of playing the game and the rush of competing at a high level, he said. The play has been very good to this point, and the more that these kids get to play, the better they will be in the future as they feed into the valley’s high school programs, said Hinch.

The league will run through mid-June so that there will be time to select all-star teams from the two age divisions (9-12 and 13-15) to compete in the Western Slope Little League playoffs, which are held in early July.

From there, a winning team will move on to the state tournament in Denver and, with a little luck, a qualifying tournament in San Bernadino, Calif. The winner of that tournament will go on to represent the United States in the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

The Three Rivers Little League consists of nine teams located mostly in Basalt and Carbondale, although there is one Glenwood Springs team competing. There is hope that the future will bring more teams from Glenwood and Aspen to the league.

“I think that the league should try to accommodate new teams in the future, but it is going to be hard unless new fields are built or some of the softball players yield their fields to the young ballplayers,” Hinch said.

In this inaugural season, things have been pulled off fairly smoothly, according to reports.

The league has not had to reschedule any games due to rain or bad weather. And a new dugout was put in along with a concession area. New lights and water fountains for Crawford Field are projects that are next on Hinch’s list.

The improvements that have been made were done with a lot of volunteer effort by a few individuals, he said.

“We are in need of more of that spirit to complete the rest of the improvements, and to help take some of the burden of running this league off of our shoulders,” said Eileen Hinch, vice president of the league.

“We welcome anybody who wants to seriously get involved, whether it’s a women’s auxiliary to run the concessions, or electricians to help get the new lights ordered and put up,” added Mark Hinch.

For more information on the Three Rivers Little League, call 947-4200. Games are held at Crawford Field in El Jebel on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and all day on Saturdays until June 12.


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