It didn’t pay immediate dividends, but the Algonquin Storm 13U baseball team is beginning to reap the benefits of focusing on the fundamentals at a young age.
The Storm, affiliated with the Algonquin Area Youth Organization, started playing together at the 10U level and coach Ray Ledinsky said they have made a fantastic progression.
“At 10 and under, we didn’t win a ton of games, but we focused on the fundamentals and playing baseball the right way,” Ledinsky said. “With a sound base of fundamentals they’ve really started to play well.”
Playing well indeed. The Storm won three tournaments in June – the Cereal City Classic on June 2 in Battle Creek, Mich., their own tournament June 16 and the Seminole Classic on June 30 in Schaumburg. They play in the Mid Suburban Baseball League’s Elite Division.
Ledinsky said he only has two rules for the team, have fun and listen to the coaches.
“I think you play you best when you’re enjoying yourself,” Ledinsky said.
Ledinsky said listening is one of his team’s strengths.
“You work with them on something and they absorb it and implement it,” Ledinsky said. “They really listen and pay attention and try and put into practice what we’re teaching them.”
The coaches learned the importance of fundamentals at a high level. Ledinsky played at Illinois State and with the Los Angeles Angels’ organization and pitching coach Brian Dennison played at Arkansas and with the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization.
Ledinsky and Dennison, along with coaches Mike Gerard and Aaron Walsh, try and instill their philosophy of fundamentals and experience to the team.
“A lot of the drills we do are the same drills I did in college and the minor leagues,” Ledinsky said.
Winning is nice, but the real goal for the organization is to help the players make their high school baseball team. All of the Storm will attend either Jacobs or Dundee-Crown.
As part of that goal, the team has pitch-count limits for their pitchers that stricter than MSBL’s inning limit.
“When they reach their pitch count, they’re done,” Ledinsky said. “We want them to make it to high school.”
The Storm will finish their season at the MSBL tournament in Jacksonville starting Friday.
Members of the 13U Algonquin Storm are: Austin Asplen, Nik Balkcom, Matt Camp, Dylan Cummings, Cory Dennison, Ryan Elliott, Jeremy Falat, Trevor Fitzsimmons, Nick Gerard, Erik Hedmark, Alex Ledinsky, Colin Walsh. Coaches: Brian Dennison, Mike Gerard, Aaron Walsh.
Pitch, Hit & Run: Valerie Tarazi won the Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run team competition in the 13- and 14-year-old girls division June 23 at Wrigley Field.
Tarazi won local and sectional competitions to advance to the team competition. She has advanced to the team competition the past three years, but this is her first time winning it. Tarazi, a Cubs fan, has also competed at U.S. Cellular Field.
“It was so much fun being out there being able to play where all the (pros) play,” Tarazi said. “I was really happy just winning it. I could not stop smiling.”
Tarazi placed sixth nationally and did not qualify as a top-three finisher to compete at Citi Field in New York during MLB All-Star Week. That dream is still alive as Tarazi has one more year of eligibility left.
“When I heard the results I was kind of sad, but to make it that far was just amazing,” Tarazi said.
• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.