Ranch seeds, ice cream and AHS baseball
If you’ve ever played the game, you’re probably aware of the symbiotic relationship that exists between the sunflower seed and the sport of baseball. Two American classics that bring out the best in each other. Baseball provides the atmosphere for maximum enjoyment of the seed, and the seeds provide an active, corporal mantra to help pass the time between pitches. What you’re probably not aware of is the wondrous, indeed sacred, alliance between the ranch-flavored sunflower seed and the Aspen High baseball team. It is, in fact, staggering.”Ranch is the seed,” coach Rick Ryan declared recently. “Hands down. However, if you lose three straight games, you switch to barbecue until you win, then it’s back to ranch. Regular flavor has no personality, and the cheese flavor should just be banned altogether.”What should not be banned, however, is the annual preseason lesson in seed shucking. Superstition runs deep here, but respect for science (and it is a science) is unparalleled. Aspen’s secret: The seed to be a good ballplayer is the seed itself. As in, before you emerge as a good hitter or fielder, you’ve got to be able to – in one saliva-fell swoop – crack the kernel between your molars, eat the fruit inside, and spit out the remains like you’ve got nothing left to prove in this world. Otherwise, you might as well call it quits.”It takes a little while to get the process down,” senior co-captain Brock Strasbourger said. “The seeding success rate increases with practice. We haven’t found our groove yet.”As could be logically expected, Aspen’s need for fine-tuning in the seed department carried over into the hitting department when regular-season play began Friday morning, March 11, in the Paonia tournament.In their first game against the tourney’s host, Aspen scored just one run off of six hits – senior center-fielder Matt Fox earning the only RBI off a line-drive double down the third-base line. Nonetheless, Aspen stayed almost even with the Eagles through five innings thanks in large part to the pitching of sophomore Andy MacCracken. “He did a super job of throwing strikes and staying in command,” said coach Ryan. “That was his first varsity start, and we threw him into the fire against a great Paonia team. He responded impressively.”Despite MacCracken’s pitching, Aspen lost to Paonia – currently ranked 10th in Colorado’s Class 2A – by a score of 6-1.Later that afternoon, Aspen fell to Cedaredge 12-4. The ball club was unable to be reached for comment. However, rumors circled that junior pitcher Kevin Coulombe’s season debut was both impassioned and eloquent, but that Cedaredge cheated big time.Friday nightIn case you ever crave ice cream in Cedaredge on a Friday night, here are a few words of advice: You won’t find it. Just ask several members of the Aspen baseball team who, inspired by a collective melancholy, walked the entirety of Cedaredge – from the Howard Johnson’s hotel, east along West Main Street, past a handcuffed motorcyclist engaged in a friendly chat with the local police, alongside an elderly man in a wheelchair who warned passersby about the aforementioned police, all the way to the Mercantile Market off Route 65 – just to find out that the only thing that could make them happier this day was locked behind a glass door one minute ago … at 9. It was 9:01.As the friendly Cedaredge policeman explained: “Y’all are SOL.” Saturday, March 12Like all sports, baseball has always rewarded persistence. And the next afternoon against Meeker, it was particularly kind to the Aspen squad. Especially in the batter’s box, where they had been struggling most. As easy as it may appear, hitting doesn’t come easy, especially when it’s your second time playing outside all year. Let’s face it – the batter is granted a few thousandths of a second to decide whether or not to swing at a pitch. Getting a hit every time is hardly possible. Instead, those who fail seven out of 10 times are considered baseball’s greatest heroes. So what did Aspen do? “We busted out in typical Aspen style,” said Strasbourger, who went 3 for 4 on the day, scored three runs and earned a pair of RBIs. “It just took us a new day to get rolling. A different day, a different team.”After all the numbers were crunched, Aspen scored 18 runs off 23 hits. Senior captain Pat Faurer went 3 for 4 on the day, including two doubles and three RBIs. Sophomore outfielder Steven Buzbee hit a perfect 3 for 3, driving in three runs and crossing home plate twice.On the defensive side, senior ace Matt Fox struck out eight batters in four innings, giving up only one run off five hits. It was his first start of the season.The final score: 18-2. “The first two games we hoped to win,” said Ryan. “The third game we were going to win. It was that simple. Our mental focus and our physical ability go hand in hand. When we bring both to the field we can play with anybody. We were good enough to win all three games, but as a team we decided to take down Meeker.”Unfortunately, Meeker was “SOL.”And wouldn’t you know it, word has it that the players’ seeding techniques became almost graceful in the process. As every botanist knows, once you’ve got the seeds, all you need is a little nourishment and you’ve got life. What’s better nourishment than blue skies, green grass, and the first win of the season? Combine it with success at the plate and stardom in the field, and you’ve got yourself some fine chemistry and a blossoming baseball team. A baseball team that left for home with the taste of victory in their mouths. Victory and ranch. Because let’s face it: Nobody’s switching over to barbecue any time soon.
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