Cal Ripken keeps America’s pastime alive
By NICK WALDEN / Rohnert Park Correspondent
With the Petaluma National Little League team’s epic journey last year, a two-week state Cal Ripken tournament in town this month and two local All-Star teams heading to regional tournaments next week, baseball fever has never been higher.
The week of July 22, Rohnert Park’s 9 and under All-Star team will travel to Riverton, Utah, with the Red Storm 12 and under All-Stars heading for Surprise, Ariz. Both will start by squaring off against the host teams, with hopes of winning the Pacific Southwest Regional title and heading to the World Series.
Raising money to cover travel costs is a family effort, much like the entire Cal Ripken experience.
Seven-year-old Brayden Fetherolf is in his third year, starting with T-ball and moving this year to the rookie division.
“My favorite thing is the smiles on their faces when they make an out or hit the ball,” she said. “They are just so excited. ‘Mom! Mom! Look what I did!’”
Cal Ripken is a division of the Babe Ruth League, which was started in 1951 in New Jersey as a baseball program for boys 13 to 15. The program grew over the years to become an international youth baseball and softball league with more than 1 million players in the U.S. and six other countries.
Notables who played in that league include Rod Carew, George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken Jr.
Cal Ripken baseball is for kids 4 to 12, with the primary focus on making baseball fun. Those 4-6 start with T-ball, then move to the rookie division from 7 to 8, minor division from 9 to 10, and then one of two major divisions when they are 11-12.
Rohnert Park’s spring season ran March through May, with all-star teams forming at the end of the season to compete in tournaments.
Paul Garrett has been coaching the Red Storm 12U (12 and under) team since 2010, when members were 9. His son Paine, who has been playing baseball since he was 5, is a member of the Red Storm team.
“We started this team to give the kids a chance for more competition,” Garrett said. “In 2010 we started 0-13, but we kept working with these kids and teaching them.
“I think what they are taking away at this point is that you have to put work in to be successful. All of these kids have talent, but it’s not just enough to be talented.”
During this year’s tournament season, they played 15 games, and Garrett is especially proud of the way they played in the latest tournament against Elk Grove, a community with more than 150,000 residents.
“We just try and work harder than everyone else.”
Now they are hard at work raising the $14,000 needed to cover his team’s travel costs, accommodations and food.
“The hardest thing is that we have such a small window of time to raise money,” Garrett said.
(To make a tax-deductible donation to the Red Storm 12U All-stars, contact Tija Moss at 228-8910. For information about donating to the 9U Blue All-Stars, contact Tasha Kane at 480-6865.)
Kids like Paine Garrett hope to follow in the footsteps of professional ballplayers who started by playing in the Babe Ruth League.
Locally, Brandon Morrow is the most famous baseball player to come out of Rohnert Park, a 2003 graduate of Rancho Cotate High School who currently pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Paine is eager for fall ball and then to go to Rancho and play,” said Garrett.
Fetherolf understands that her young son Brayden does more than just have fun in Cal Ripken.
“He has learned about sportsmanship and socializing in general,” she said. “Learning to share and take turns was really important in the first year.
“Now he is understanding more of the fundamentals of the game and problem solving, along with strategy like where do you throw the ball with runners on base and why.”
As he reaches the minor and major levels, he will learn more about the game itself, team work, good sportsmanship, camaraderie and the excitement of little league tournaments.
Fetherolf says she will enroll her son in the league as long as he enjoys it.
“It is really as long as he wants to play,” she said. “I’m not going to force him into a sport even if he is good at it.”
Signups for fall ball begin on Friday. It is open to Sonoma and Marin county kids 4-12 who live south of Steele Lane in Santa Rosa. For more information, visit Calripken.org.
Signups for fall ball begin on Friday, July 19, and are open to Sonoma and Marin county kids 4-12 who live south of Steele Lane in Santa Rosa. For more information, visit Calripken.org.