Coldwater’s 12-year-olds made a good impression in Saturday’s continuation of the Craig Stammen youth tournament in Versailles. And their shortstop, in just two at bats, gave baseball blue-bloods enough to remember all summer (and year) long.
Versailles – I was looking for something different, a particular subject of human interest about which to write.
So, I asked Saturday, prior to the ‘Stannen Classic’ 12-year-old matchup between St. Henry and Coldwater at the Little League diamond in North Star: “Is there one particular player in this game that I should watch?”
“Yeah,” said an grinning onlooker wearing a gray Coldwater T-shirt, splashed in orange. “Check out Luke Sudhoff.”
“Where’s he play?” I inquired.
“Everywhere on the field,” he offered, grin widening. “He’s pretty good for twelve.”
And with that Coldwater proceeded to score six times in the top of the first inning, accented by a line triple between shortstop and third base by Sudhoff that was past the left fielder nearly before he could move. Now, there are balls that are hit hard…and then there are balls that are hit HARD. This was of the latter variety.
They bat more than nine in the younger age groups of youth baseball, and by the time Sudhoff came to the plate again in the fourth inning the score was still 6-0, St. Henry’s pitching and defense having stiffened. Adam Lefeld, a worthy-size 12-year-old was on the mound for St. Henry and he worked the count to 2-2 on Sudhoff before pouring in a pay-0ff pitch on the inside half of the plate.
Sudhoff turned on it, violently, and hit a shot at the third baseman and through his legs into left field before he could move. It was only a single, but by far it was the hardest-hit ball of the game. He later scored an insurance run in what would end up to be a 7-2 Coldwater win, St. Henry coming back to score a pair of runs in the final inning.
I made it a point to meet Luke Sudhoff, who had indeed impressed as being ‘pretty good’ for twelve years old. He had played shortstop in this game, but it was evident by his athleticism and maturity for his age he was capable – as the man said – of playing any position on the field.
“I’ve been playing since ‘coach pitch’ when I was eight years old,” he answered my question of how many years of baseball experience did he have.
“I can play pretty much anywhere,” he added. “But I like to hit. I go the batting cage a lot with my dad.”
He admitted, as many have this weekend, that the Stammen Classic tournament was a special opportunity for him.
“It’s fun just to play with my friends, hang out and have fun,” he said. “The rivalries and stuff like that are fun, too.”
Asked if he even knew who Craig Stammen was, Luke Sudhoff raised an eyebrow, tried to put a name with a person, and admitted: “I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s in the MLB. That’s about all.”
Stammen would have laughed, would have been gratified, had he heard…because the issue this weekend is not him, but rather, the importance of bringing so many Luke Sudhoffs together for the purpose of playing baseball with their friends, hanging out, and having fun. Sudhoff was not alone, as a pair of Russia 12-year-olds hit the baseball with like confidence and authority in the game played just prior to Coldwater and St. Henry.
They say that you can spot a talent on first glance. And that’s true in Luke Sudhoff’s case. But no two talents emerge at the same time, at the same age, and with the same skills. And that’s the importance of having an event such as this with so many age groups represented, and so many boys involved.
“We’re fortunate in Versailles to actually have a lot of kids playing baseball. We have two 14-year-old teams in this tournament,” said Mike Henry, coach of one of those teams that would meet Liberty Benton in the 1 pm game later in the day.
And indeed they are fortunate, because many communities this spring lacked the actual numbers to field a high school JV team to complement its varsity roster.
“Baseball is popular in Versailles,” added Henry, who himself played and graduated from Versailles in the 90s. “But we never had facilities like we have now back then,” he shared with a grin.
And the same can be said for Coldwater, Minster, Russia, and any of the communities at this weekend’s tourney that have made a commitment to provide a positive baseball opportunity. And for his part, Sudhoff, and others like him, are proving what Kevin Costner claimed when he made his Field Of Dreams movie a quarter century ago. If you build it…they WILL come!
Craig Stammen would have been about eight years old when the movie came out. Apparently he rented and watched it…many, many times.