Home sweet home
Monument Little League team hopes playing in GJ leads to better results
Flying in a plane. Going to a city you’ve never visited. Staying in a hotel. Eating at restaurants.
Travel can be new and fun for a kid, but for several players and the coaches of the Monument Little League Intermediate baseball team, it’s old hat. Been there, done that, and they didn’t get the desired result, which was to come home with a regional tournament championship and berth in their division’s World Series.
So, in a division that’s new to Little League this year, Monument is trying something else new. It’s hosting the Intermediate Division’s Southwestern Regional, which started Friday at the Grand Mesa Little League sports complex.
Monument received a bye in the opening round of the seven-team tourney and opens play at 5 p.m. today against Gallup Little League of New Mexico, an 11-0 winner over Cherry Creek.
Four Monument Intermediate players — Zack Owens, Zach Coutts, Shawn Garcia and Canon Kreidler — were members of the Monument Major team that traveled to Waco, Texas, one year ago for the Southwestern Regional. The team flew to Fort Worth, then squeezed into vans to drive the rest of the way, which Coutts said stunk.
Owens said he thinks the travel, especially such a long trip like the one to Texas, does affect players. So, being at home, he added, “I think it does help us. We’ll be sleeping in our own beds, staying at our own houses, eating meals at home.”
Coutts said he thinks the comforts of home will help calm the nerves, of which there were plenty a year ago for Monument’s first game in Waco.
Monument coach Sean Kreidler sees that same advantage. Familiar surroundings provide fewer distractions and worries and the ability to focus on playing.
“Being at home is going to be one more comfortable thing, one more normal thing,” he said. “I think that will be a huge benefit.”
A first-round bye doesn’t hurt, either, if it means Monument’s opponent today already has thrown its top pitcher. But Monument learned a year ago the other teams in the regional bring pitching depth, just like Monument boasts with its ability to throw Garcia, Coutts, Owens and Canon Kreidler.
Owens said the level of pitching stood out at last year’s regional, and Monument can expect to see it again this year.
Another takeaway from last year’s regional appearance was a better understanding of what it will take to win.
“We have to play our best at all times,” Owens said.
Meanwhile, Sean Kreidler is telling his players they can win if they play smart, stay true to baseball’s fundamentals, keep calm and limit mistakes.
“We’re trying to keep them from getting nervous and thinking they have to do more than they need to do,” Kreidler said. “We’re telling the kids if we do what we did at districts, we’re going to be successful.”
Coutts, Owens, Garcia and Canon Kreidler can back up their coach on that and help their six teammates who are new to regional play.
“We know how this tournament is going to go, and we can coach our teammates up,” Coutts said.