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North Babe Ruth readies for season

January 17, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Kids lined up alongside the outfield wall waiting for their opportunity to catch and throw. Coaches hit fungoes in the outfield to each player, who then made their throws to second, then home.

That was the scene all week at the North Fort Myers Community Park as the North Fort Myers Babe Ruth held player evaluations for all its players in preparation for the league's draft, which was held Saturday.

According to coaches and league officials, it's shaping up to be the best season yet with numbers up sharply from last year for their league teams and travel ball.

Article Photos

Christopher Ralston delivers a pitch during player evaluations for North Fort Myers Babe Ruth baseball at the North Fort Myers Community Park on Thursday.


Last season the U6 and U10 divisions each won district titles. With many of them going to U12 this year, there's a good chance they could make in impact there with the new rules they will play by.

Jason Estes, league president, said he expects about 215 players to be in uniform on Opening Day, with more possible as the season progresses, since they don't have a cutoff date. More than 20 kids joined the league after evaluations last season.

He also expects those players to put out a better product than in past years, judging by what he saw in his U12 players this week, he may be right.

"We've had a chance to see all the players and we'll be ready to make teams on Saturday. We've seen growth each season. The quantity and quality are better," Estes said. "We have a great group of 11-year-olds coming and they'll learn new things with the stopped third strike and lead-offs. It should be exciting."

Vice president and coach Mickey Zambuto said with practices starting Monday, they are really starting to get into the swing of things.

"They look good. We're bringing up a lot of kids who are quality players and this division is looking to grow," Zambuto said. "We have 30 kids right now and we'll continually hold registrations. We don't tell kids they can't play."

The U14 division didn't wait for its draft, holding theirs after the evaluations were over being introduced to their coaches and having a short practice afterward.

Coach Christian Martinez said many of the players did work in the offseason on their fundamentals, which has shown in their overall improvement.

"It's been a challenge when we've played other teams. These kids have a lot of raw talent. It's going to take hard work, but it's going to be fun," Martinez said. "Kids who have played travel ball are starting to come, so we're going to have better talent."

The players couldn't wait to get their season started, knowing they had much to work on.

"I need to improve on catching and maybe my shortstop play," said Braden Townsend, 11, in his third year in the league. "I like that you can take all your anger out when you hit the ball after a day at school."

"I did good. I have to work on my stretches while pitching," said Landon Hodges. "I like to play baseball. It's a lot of fun."



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