FARMINGTON — The Demons enter the 2016 Connie Mack City League with one goal that stands above the rest: continue the growth and development of the baseball program at Durango High School in Colorado.
The Demons, comprised of players from Durango’s high school team, most of whom are underclassmen, and one player from Ignacio, Colo., are under the direction of Durango’s second-year head coach Eric Baker.
“This is just a great league to come down and play in. We get some good games against good competition, and it really gives us a chance to develop some kids, particularly the younger kids,” Baker said. “We’re trying to get the kids some games and put them in some pressure situations and see if we can get better.”
Last summer, the Demons were a part of the City League and used the summer to build their program. The experience of last summer was evident during the 2016 high school season when Durango improved from 7-14 in 2015 to 9-11 this year.
“It’s critical to get some games in during the summer. Baseball is a game where you have to play it enough to really grow. If they’re not getting some games in the summertime, in my experience, they’re not going to be able to keep developing and keep up with the other kids,” Baker said. “It’s really vital for us to play in the summers so we can be competitive in our (high school) league.”
With a young roster and less experience than most of the teams in City League, the Demons will be the underdog in the bulk of their games. Baker said part of the challenge for his team will be figuring out a way to compete with teams that are “physically a little better” than the Demons.
Part of his plan is to clean up the fundamentals of their play, saying that if his squad can take care of the little things, they’ll be able to hang around with everyone else.
Baker said playing with wood bats also helps level the field for his team when they play some of the top teams in the league.
“It’s tough for teams to really square up balls and knock walls down all day. There are still some guys who can get it out of (the park), but it’s a lot tougher,” he said.
At the base of Baker’s goals for his squad is getting the Demons to be more aggressive in all facets of the game. He said most players haven’t grasped the importance of playing that way when they first get to the high school level — often sitting back on ground balls rather than charging them or running base to base instead of keeping their head up and taking what is given to them — so breaking those passive tendencies will be a top priority.
In trying to instill that mindset in his players, Baker is more accepting of the mishaps that may happen on the field, as long as they are the result of aggressive plays.
“I don’t mind losing, but I hate losing when being passive,” he said.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.