Baseball: Babe Ruth team acclimates to Arizona heat

The San Benito Babe Ruth 15-and-under team line up for the national anthem prior to a July 27 game against South Tahoe in the Southwest Regional Tournament in Surprise, Ariz.

This time the San Benito Babe Ruth 15-and-under team knew what to expect.
“Until you experience it, you don’t know how hot it is,” manager Dave Marquez said.
Marquez was referring to the stifling heat in Surprise, Ariz., the site of the Babe Ruth Southwest Regional Tournament. A year ago, San Benito’s 14-and-under squad went 2-2 in the regional in Surprise, and virtually all of the players on that team aged up to the 15 squad that is currently in one of the hottest places in the U.S.
To get an idea of just how inferno-like the temperatures get in Surprise, the “lowest” the temperature got on Tuesday was 85 degrees—at 6 a.m. The high spiked at 106, and the expected high for Thursday was 107, followed by expected daytime highs of 109 and 111.
This isn’t child’s play, folks.
“We knew what to expect as far as the weather,” Marquez said. “Some of the teams that have not been here, the weather is kind of a shock to them.”
San Benito got off to a great start in this year’s regional, rolling to a 13-0 win over South Tahoe on July 27. The team enjoyed an off day on Tuesday before dropping a tough 3-2 decision to Tri-Valley of Northern California, meaning it will have to win both of its games on Thursday—the result was not available when this edition went to press—to keep its tournaments hopes alive.
Against South Tahoe, San Benito racked up 15 hits to back up tremendous pitching performances from Jake Ito, Eugene McBride and Josh Jennings. Ito started and went the first two innings before giving way to McBride and Jennings, who combined for three shutout innings of relief.
San Benito won via the 10-run, 5-inning mercy rule, a perfect way to start off regional play. Marquez was happy with the team’s win in the opener.
“Offensively, we hit the ball pretty well,” Marquez said. “They made a few mistakes and we capitalized with some runs, which pretty much buried them a bit.”
Marquez believes the team can make a deep run in the tournament because it has six quality pitchers—the aforementioned Ito, McBride and Jennings to go along with Nick Christian, Tyler Triano and Ryan Jameson—he can utilize at any time.
“We’ve got about six good arms backing our team right now, all potential starters,” Marquez said. “This year they’re better because they’ve gotten stronger and taller physically and stronger mentally. They’re not letting things affect them or letting the other team get in their head.”
After last year’s tournament experience in Surprise, the team has returned armed with another year of experience, which should bode well both physically and mentally.
“We did good conditioning prior to coming here, and hopefully that prepared our players better for this weather,” Marquez said. “The way we’ve practiced and prepared is a little different in that we’ve taken a lot more swings and gotten in a few more bullpens knowing we’re going to come to the heat. We had expectations in how to hydrate and be ready for triple digit temps here. It’s tough to get out in this heat and do anything really.”
That’s why on the team’s day off, the players and coaches stayed indoors and played a variety of games. The teams in the Southwest Regional are playing at the Texas Rangers’ spring training facility practice fields, with the final being held at Surprise Stadium.
“The facilities are unbelievable as you can imagine,” Marquez said. “The fields are very manicured, and being here last year and this year, they’ve done a great job of maintenance. The tournament is run with very high standards, which is nice.”

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