Gene Taylor’s team all about playing tough competition

Mick Ritter swings as a ball thrown by his coach Blaine Bernades, right, during a soft toss batting ptactice drill at Gene Taylor’s Sporting Good’s batting cages. Ritter plays shortstop on the Gene Taylor’s team.

The goal hasn’t changed for the Gene Taylor’s baseball team.

After a several-year hiatus, the 18-under competitive baseball team was started up again in 2007 as a way to get the top players in the area some top-notch competition.

This year is no exception. Gene Taylor’s begins its summer tournament schedule in Pueblo this weekend, playing in the Tony Andenucio Tournament.

Regarded as one of the best summer tournaments in the state, teams play five games against teams from Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Las Vegas.

“We have played in this tournament the past few years, and it’s a great tournament,” Taylor’s coach Blaine Bernades said. “We want these kids to get more experience against good arms, and we want our pitchers to face good hitters one through nine.”

Experience is something this year’s Gene Taylor’s team will be looking for. The team is younger than it has been the past two years, with six returning players. Of the 15-man roster, seven are still in high school.

Gene Taylor’s has no home games scheduled for the summer, but will end the season July 15 at Montrose.

Gene Taylor’s lost its first three games to a Cherry Creek select team, but Bernades said he’s been impressed with the way the group has bonded early.

“Talking to some of the guys, they say this might be a better group than some of the others team-wise,” Bernades said. “They get along well, which can be tough for these high school kids to do, because they have some pretty big rivalries between them.”

The players are able to put their rivalries aside if it means a chance to test themselves against strong players all summer. Bernades said by traveling and playing different teams, it provides unique challenges to the players individually and as a team.

“I want them to get out and see top-of-the-line kids,” Bernades said. “I’m not saying the Western Slope isn’t competitive, but they have to get out of the mode of playing each other and get away from that comfort zone.” Gene Taylor’s competes in 18-under tournaments, which allows the team to have players who are out of high school.

This year’s team has four returning college players, four recent high school graduates and the seven underclassmen. Mick Ritter, a 2008 Central High School graduate, spent this past year playing at Neosho County (Kan.) Community College.

“I was going to just come back, try to gain some weight and take some regular hacks,” Ritter said. “Getting on this team will help me stay in good baseball shape.”

Ritter will lead the team in the infield along with Charlie Willett, Cody Bell and Casey Reed.

In the outfield, Gene Taylor’s has Andy Willett, Joe Arnold, Jayke Brock and Scott Clow.

On the mound, Mesa State-bound Rex Clemons, Connor Dixon, Tyler Stanford and Shannon Reynolds will all see plenty of innings.

As one of the more experienced players on the team, Ritter is taking the lead.

“We should be pretty strong,” Ritter said. “I want to help this team win some games and be a leader.”


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