The Babe Ruth League experience is so much more than hits, runs and errors. It's about life lessons, cultural experiences, a repect for themself and a respect for the needs of others. Last summer, four teams from the Bemidji Youth Babe Ruth League made it to the regionals. While in Nebraska for the Cal Ripken Regional Tournament, the 10-Year-Old team had the opportunity to volunteer at the local Fur Trade Museum, picking weeds, planting flowers and cleaning windows. Making it to the World Series in Jonesboro, Arkansas, they helped packed boxes at the food shelf during their days off. These young men were featured on the front page of the newspaper for their efforts. In addition, they won the Sportsmanship Award at the regionals and at the World Series. They had the time of their lives and an experience they will remember for many, many years to come. Here is their story:
The 10 year old Northern Heat baseball team had a very memorable summer of 2015. After getting 2nd place to Baxter, MN in the state tournament, they earned a trip to the Midwest Plains Regional in Chadron, Nebraska. Both Baxter and Bemidji traveled to Nebraska in the end of July. These two Minnesota teams eventually met in the semi-final game of the Regional Tournament. After finding themselves down 7-2 in the second inning, the Bemidji 10 year olds put together a rally with 11 hits in the game to help them overcome Baxter and make it to the Championship game against a very intimidating team from North Platte, Nebraska, whom they had beat previously in pool play. The highlight of the tournament, to many, was the moment before the Championship game where the Baxter, MN coaches led their team out to the Bemidji team during warm-ups, to huddle and lead them in the “I believe” chant. This was the ultimate gesture of class. Ultimately, the Heat prevailed 14-4 (an unbelievable 19 hits), with many of their Minnesota rivals cheering them on. What a testament to the level of baseball talent, comradery, and sportsmanship in the state of Minnesota. While in Chadron, these boys volunteered at the Fur Trade Museum, picking weeds, planting flowers, and cleaning windows. While there, the Heat were also honored with the Norm and Colleen Travis Sportsmanship Award, a tribute to our boys’ attitudes on and off the field, as well as our coaches and fans.
While at the Cal Ripken World Series in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the Northern Heat 10s went 2-2 in pool play beating Connecticut and Jonesboro, earning a spot in bracket play. They lost their first game in bracket play to a talented Visalia, California team. While in Arkansas, our boys and families gave some of their downtime to the Food Shelf of Northwest Arkansas, packing boxes; enough to feed 216 families! During their volunteer efforts in Chadron and Jonesboro, I believe these young men received as much as they gave, learning the satisfaction and fulfillment one feels when helping others.
Our coaches, boys, and families stayed throughout the tournament up until the Championship game. One of our boys had the honor of reading the Babe Ruth Sportsmanship code before the Championship game, at the request of the Cal Ripken officials. They were invited on the field during the presentation of the awards after the championship game was complete. This was an honor, since not all the teams were on the field. During the awards, our ambassadors from the little town of Bemidji won the Babe Ruth Sportsmanship Award (a very high honor), our center fielder won a gold glove for his defense, and our second baseman made the World Series All-Tournament Team for his combined offensive and defensive play. Not only did they accomplish all of this, but also competed well, making it to bracket play. Out of the 10 teams there, 4 teams went home before Bemidji did. These are huge accomplishments from kids who are competing with teams who draw from areas with populations up to 350,000. Hundreds of kids try out for these teams, with the Northern Heat 10s drawing 18 kids for tryouts this spring.
While there, the Bemidji team received many compliments from Cal Ripken officials as well as from the people of the town of Jonesboro. They referred to the behavior our team (on and off the field), our coaches, and our fans/parents. The Jonesboro newspaper (pop. 71,000) even had an article on the front page of their sports section, solely on the Bemidji team. They referred to our work at the Food Shelf of Northwest Arkansas and what the coaches are teaching the kids about being a team. One official said, “I had never heard of Bemidji, MN until now, but I can promise you that after this tournament, I will never forget”.
Winning a trophy at the World Series is a big deal and youth sports is about learning to and having the desire to win and improve their skills. But it is also about learning to represent your community, how to lose with grace, and how to pick yourself up again after you fall. The great people of Bemidji who supported this team all summer; emotionally, physically, and financially, deserve to know all the awesome things these boys did in their journey.