There will be quite a few changes in store for Coach Deej Ramirez and his Tillman County Warriors — or Warriors — when they suit up to play baseball next spring.
To start, the team — who finished out their last season with 22 wins and only three losses in the 10-and-under circuit — will be moving on to a much more challenging class.
The now slightly older Warriors will be competing in the 12-and-under — or 12U — circuit. The change comes with a few differences, some that are not too worrisome and some that will require a period of adjustment for the team.
In 12U play, the pitching mound moves from the 10U distance of 42 feet to 47 feet, which will affect the ability of some pitchers to throw the ball with the same effectiveness, at least until the adjustment is made.
But out of all the positions on the field, the catcher position will require the biggest change and that is where the most important adjustment will need to be made.
In 10U ball, if on the third strike the catcher misses or drops the ball, the batter is still called out at the plate.
But in 12U play, if on the third strike the catcher misses or drops the ball, the batter will have to be tagged out or thrown out at first base.
Luckily, Ramirez believes he has a catcher that is fully capable and up to the challenge and thinks everything will work itself out in the end.
“This last season, we won plenty of local games and won the Altus league,” Ramirez said. “I think this will be a tougher year, there is more competition, but at the same time these boys come to play and they love baseball.”
Base running and base management also becomes a priority.
“Stealing becomes much more difficult because the good teams have a catcher that can throw the runner out,” Ramirez said. “There are no gimmes on the bases. You have to earn it by doing things the right way. Small ball becomes a big factor, you have to sacrifice and bunt to get runs in, so it’ll be interesting.”
Ramirez is getting his team prepared and ready to go.
From Sept. 10-11, there is a tournament scheduled in Choctaw that the team will be participating in, but before that he would like to round up at least nine of his players to play in a tournament in Chickasha on Aug. 13-14.
Even with the changes coming, Ramirez believes in this group of players.
“I believe we will have a good competitive year,” said Ramirez. “We’ll be young, but these kids can easily compete with older kids and I’ll be able to pick up one to three kids in 12U that were on my team two years ago and we’ll play in two tournaments a month until it gets too cold.”
Even though their next full season will not begin until the spring, they are anxious to get it underway.
And thanks to a former Tipton resident, they now have some of the things needed to advance their game and compete with the 12U teams next spring.
A generous donation was provided by C.A. Hartwig — a 1954 graduate of Tipton High School — following the Warriors’ season and the team cannot thank him and the individuals who care about Little League athletics enough.
“On behalf of the Warriors, we give a big thank you to C.A.,” Ramirez said. “His contribution has helped in so many ways and these boys will continue to work hard to try and get to where they want to be.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.