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‘Boys of Summer’ heading to Cooperstown

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The Roswell Rampage baseball team is scheduled to play in Cooperstown, New York on June 5 in the Cooperstown Dreams Park Tournament. (File Photo)

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Many baseball fans have heard of Field of Dreams — for local baseball players and parents, last season was one of lost dreams. Noon Optimist and Lions Hondo missed out on their 12-year-olds playing a season last year and having a chance to field an all-star team and win the Little League World Series.

“Most of our players missed out on their season last year,” Steve Dodson said. “That is the penultimate for them. That’s their top season if you’re in a little league. We had high aspirations and goals for that all-star team last year, but the league didn’t make it at all because of the governor shutting down sports.”

Dodson said most other states ended up playing an abbreviated form of little league in 2020. There is a concern that youth and club sports in New Mexico might be left out again this season.

Dodson hopes to have his travel team of 12-year-olds make up for their lost season last year — before they turn 13 years old. His team, the Roswell Rampage travel team will play in the Cooperstown Dreams Park Tournament on June 5, 2021.

“I felt like since we missed our 12-year-old season,” Dodson said, “let’s go have some fun and do something really good.”

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The process was an arduous one. Dodson’s team applied on Aug. 13, 2019, and had to wait to see if they would be accepted. Dodson learned of the idea from his nephew, Jake Evans, who lives in Houston, Texas, and played in the tournament in 2019.

Not only was it stressful, but it was expensive as well. At the time of signing up to play, it was $1,000. Each player on the 13-team roster had to raise $1,300, and the coaches as well. The team will take four coaches: head coach Steve Dodson, Daniel Fuentes, Ian Brumana, and Matt Garcia. Each coach had to raise the same amount of money. Not only that, but the team had to supply their own umpire, Roy Alta Mirano, from Brownfield, Texas to umpire games. Each umpire will call three games a day, and stay in the umpire barracks for the week.

This tournament is just for 12-year-olds and under, and has an old-school baseball feel to it. Players and coaches will stay in barracks together during the week. The barracks will be spartan with no air conditioning and they will be able to bond with other teams in the barracks among the 104 teams there that week.

The team is guaranteed to play seven games. On their first three days in pool play, the teams will play two games a day. On their fourth day, the team will be seeded. If a team loses, they would go into the losers’ bracket and have to win six games to make it to the championship. The team could play 13 games in total.

Each kid will be given two uniforms, a red one and a blue one. Kids are allowed to bring their own pants, but it has to be a knickers style of pants with nothing on them. The tournament wants to give a nod to an era where players wore floppy hats. If a kid does not tuck in his uniform and respect the uniform while playing, he could be suspended for the next game.

With that amount of games in seven days, Dodson knows there is a premium on pitching. He noted that most of his players will be two-way players that can play another position and yet take the bump when necessary. Dodson said the team will carry at least seven pitchers and try for an eighth.

This tournament is not associated with United States Specialty Sports Association or little league, instead, this league makes its own rules. There are 21 identical fields with 200-foot fences. The emphasis is on hitting home runs. The tournament has no pitch-count requirements, and wooden bats are prohibited.

Another fun fact, each kid will have at least 100 pins to trade with other teams during the tournament. The Rampage is having a company makeover 2,000 pins. The pins will say Roswell New Mexico 2021. Not only is this a nice tournament to play in, but this will do so much for kids being exposed to other kids from different parts of the country and give them a chance to make lifelong friends.

“It is the top destination tournament in the entire country,” Dodson said. “I want our kids to go out on a high note because next year starts high school for a lot of these athletes. As a father, me coaching my son, Joshua, is coming to an end. It makes our time together all the more meaningful and valuable. This is time we will never get back, being together at this stage in his life.”

To raise money to be able to go, the team has had three big raffles and they were successful. The team is very close to hitting its financial goal of getting everybody to Cooperstown. Dodson said that Roswell has been most generous in supporting his team and helping them live their dreams.

“I’m excited about our kids playing in this tournament,” Dodson said. “Cooperstown is all about old-school baseball values, and the tournament is about the kids getting back to the roots of baseball. The focuses are on the history of the game and respecting the game. I think it is very cool.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.