HERITAGE HARBOUR — Seven-year-old Robby Goeker trotted off the field clutching a trophy in one hand and tightly grasping a baseball in the other.
The baseball was one of three game balls awarded to the players on the winning team, and for Goeker, this particular game ball — the one he used to hit an infield homerun in the seventh inning — proved to be perhaps the most special of them all.
“I hit the homerun for my sister, Abby,” Goeker said. “It’s her birthday. She turns 14 today.”
He had just completed another game in his young baseball career, but anyone who happened to glance over at the smiling shortstop soon realized that this game had taken on a whole new meaning.
For Goeker, this game was about more than wins and losses. It was about pride, honor and having fun, but it was also a chance for him and the rest of his all-star teammates to get the recognition they deserved.
On May 30, nearly 30 7- and 8-year-old boys donned pinstripe uniforms with their names plastered across the back and hit the ballpark for the first-ever Manatee Cal Ripken Youth Baseball Rookie Division All-Star Game at Heritage Harbour.
The top three players in each of the league’s 10 teams were selected by their coaches to participate in the all-star game. The two teams spent two weeks practicing for the big game; and when all the dirt settled, the more experienced blue team all-stars found themselves on the winning end of a 24-3 margin.
“It was just an honor to be able to play out of the 60 or 70 kids that could’ve been picked,” 8-year-old Adam Scott said. “I just really enjoyed the time.”
The blue team all-stars took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning before the red team all-stars responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the second inning. But the experience of the older blue team all-stars proved to be too much for the red team all-stars to handle.
The blue team all-stars scored 10 runs in the third inning and eight runs in the final two innings to secure the victory.
“This was just a great group of kids who came out ready to play and they were all focused, which is key,” blue team coach Greg Ackard said. “They were all just so excited and ready to go.”
“We’re a really young team and they had a lot of experienced players who have been playing together for a really long time,” red team coach Jayson Moss said. “I just hope that they had fun and enjoyed the experience because more than anything else we just wanted them to have fun.”
The two teams combined for 27 runs on 52 hits with 11 strikeouts. Goeker led the way for the blue team all-stars, going 4-for-4 with a homerun and four RBIs. Devon Summerville followed going 4-for-4 with an RBI and Christian Loomis went 4-for-4. Eli Trippi led the way for the red team all-stars, going 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs. Rob Arakel and Hunter Graff also received game balls.
With the win, the blue team all-stars will now represent the Cal Ripken Youth Baseball League as the A team in an all-star tournament June 6 in Sarasota. Both the blue and red team all-stars will participate in the round robin tournament, which will also feature all-star teams from Sarasota and Cape Coral.
“It’s an honor just to be in the game,” 8-year-old John DiPasqua said. “It’s just a great game. It was a lot of fun, and I think the other guys did just as good as me today.”
For more information on Manatee Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth Youth Baseball Leagues at Heritage Harbour visit www.manatee.baberuthonline.com.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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