* Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a series that looks at Davis Little League’s nine postseason tournament teams. Today, Junior All-Stars and the new 50-70 division squad are featured.
Come Tuesday, local National and American Junior division teams will meet in the first round of the District 64 double-elimination gathering at Winters High. Game time is 5:30 p.m. on the Warrors’ junior varsity field.
Meanwhile, in the new, so-called 50-70 format introduced this spring by Little League Baseball of America, a Davis travel-ball team has mystically “won” the district championship and heads to Section 1 play next month.
Davis AL juniors, under the direction of manager Dominic Costa, have been practicing at Civic Center Field the past two weeks. Juniors — who play on “big boy” fields with 90-foot base paths and 60-foot, 6-inch pitching dimensions — go through a lot of adjustment — adjustment that continues as tournament time arrives.
But Costa says once a player becomes accustomed to his new surroundings, the key to success to confidence.
“It’s the same for any ball player from 8 to 80,” Costa told The Enterprise. “It comes and goes. I just try and let our guys know someone always believes in them, even when they don’t believe in themselves.”
Kevin Bell, the skipper for NL juniors, says the mental aspect of the game gets easier with repetition, agreeing with Costa that confidence goes a lot way.
“Baseball is a simple game,” Bell says. “But knowing what to do — and how to do it — in any given situation can be a challenge for young players.
“To help our players succeed on the field, we follow four basic coaching steps: keep it simple; explain the why; celebrate the individual; and make it fun. Fortunately, we have a great group of talented kids that want to play the game the right way.”
Costa has been managing or coaching in Davis Little League since his Junior team sons Manuel and Sebastian were Farm-level neophytes.
Bell, whose son Ryan is on the NL roster, has been at it since T-ball.
“I love coaching at the different levels,” explains Bell, who also has coached a travel-ball squad. “It’s an honor to be selected to manage the D64 juniors. At the same time, it’s bittersweet since it is the last time I’ll be coaching Ryan (who will be trying out at Davis High next spring).”
And speaking of aging out of Little League, that inaugural 50-70 division will be locally represented by a travel-ball team called the Wolf Pack.
Managed by Tyler Gibson, the 13U travel-ballers came to represent District 64 by default.
Assistant Pack coach Mike Finerty saw the new division featured in the Little League national magazine and asked DLL President Steve Olney if the area had any teams eligible. When Olney checked with District 64 director Mike Pappa, he discovered that not only were there no 50-70 teams in the region, none of the other Little Leagues in D64 cared to create one this summer.
Gibson and Finerty — both veteran coaches of Davis Little League — said they would make the Wolf Pack available to compete in the Section 1 tournament and Olney and Pappa signed off on it.
District tournaments for 50-70 (so designated because of the pitching and base dimensions) are underway throughout Northern California this week and the Section 1 gathering starts next month in the Concord area.
Kids eligible range in age from 11 to 13.
“This is all so new, Little League hasn’t determined where the section tournament will be yet,” Finerty continued, noting that his team has been playing on bigger fields during their travel-ball season. “For us, it will be a little like indoor soccer.”
But a smaller field isn’t necessary a leg up for the Wolf Pack, says Gibson:
“If you’re having success on bigger field, you’d certainly think (smaller would be an advantage). But it is a different game. On a bigger field, you’re getting a ground ball, having time to field it, set and get off a good throw.
“Now, with the smaller dimensions, it becomes a quicker game. Everything speeds up and there’s less time to make that play. Smaller fields, you have to be quicker.”
Here are the three DLL older-boys’ team rosters…
Junior AL: Tony Munoz, Christian Lien, Dylan Schmidt, Mason Scheiber, Rogrick Davis, Zacky Baca, Sebastian and Manuel Costa, Matt Vinh, Brendan Carsel, Ryan Holgate and Max Banuelos.
Junior NL: Sebastian Anaya, Ryan Bell, Kevin Blanc, Connor Bunfill, Gabrial Gutierrez, Trevor Hewitt, Ronny Leymaster, Tanner Olney, Lucas Russell, Gavin Schouten, Jacob Wieking.
50-70: Chris Simpson, Jonah Watts, Eton Tuttle, Chris Roque, John Lagattuta, Austin Griffiths, AJ Bernhardt, Reed Hessl, Max Thompson, Sam Ault, Sean Finerty and Tyler Gibson Jr.