Boys of summer boost their confidence
Not to be outdone by three week’s worth of female softball players, the Park City boys of summer just wrapped up two month’s worth of baseball competition against other high schools in the state.
The Park City High School boys baseball team, minus the graduated seniors, began play June 2 and have been playing at least three nights a week since.
The Miners started the season on a high note, setting the tone for the rest of the season. After winning three out of four games (with the lone loss being to 4A State Champion Cottonwood) in the summer league seeding tournament, the Miners were assigned to one of the hardest brackets for summer play. This put Park City up against teams like Cottonwood, Bonneville and Mountain View.
Once the season got underway, it was relatively smooth sailing for the Miners, who coasted to an 11-6 record. According to head coach Terry Phillips, if key players had been in some of those games the loss record might have been a small as three, but he felt the success helped to boost the boys’ confidence after a somewhat rocky prep season.
"We’ve played some fairly good ball compared to where we’ve been," he said.
The winning comes from a mix of factors. First and foremost it’s summer. The boys might be playing and practicing every day, but the atmosphere is more relaxed. Phillips said that this atmosphere allows the coaches more flexibility as well. A number of the players tried different positions this summer and found new job assignments for the coming year.
"We had kids change position and it helped them become successful," Phillips said. "Some of these kids have had their best summer."
About 15 boys played on the summer league, but Phillips said that with vacations and baseball tournaments, the number hovered more around 12 players.
Although, this is a smaller number than the team uses during the high school season, Phillips said that it is actually more beneficial to each individual player. With just 11 or 12 athletes to work with, Phillips could use all of the players in every game, which helped the boys build pride and confidence throughout season. The team played with six pitchers, who rotated duties at each game.
Phillips said that the team attitude was an even a better indicator of a successful season than their winning record. He said a lot of frustrations that had been running through the team quickly dissipated after the summer play got underway and added, a lot of that may have been due to a smaller roster and a very organized schedule, where players always knew what position they would be playing and that the games were every other day.
"That was the best part of the whole summer," Phillips said. "The team was getting along and enjoyed playing together."
As a team, the Miners improved their hitting record from the regular season. The team average was .322 and many players sharply increased their individual averages. Phillips said the high school field was left open all summer so the boys could practice hitting during their free time.
Some players missed a few games while attending tournaments. Top players Parker Morin and David Feasler both attended events in Arizona. Still, even without that talent, Phillips said the team thrived. Phillips started coaching when this year’s seniors were freshmen and said he was amazed at the progress they have made over the past three years.
"You see these kids grow," Philips said. "It’s awesome."
He was especially impressed with pitcher Marshall Crawford, who improved both his batting average and slugging percentage. Crawford was invited to the Utah Prospects Game at the end of the season for his efforts. In the game, Crawford went 2-for-2 and had no earned runs in one inning as a pitcher. Phillips said he could remember a young ninth-grade Crawford and was impressed with his progress.
"You get goosebumps," Phillips said. "All of a sudden he’s part of the elite."
Dakota Matherly also made a name for himself over the summer with an appearance in the Jr. Utah Prospects Game, where he was named MVP.
Five Miners played in the Utah Prospects Game, which Phillips said is a big accomplishment for the Park City program.
"Its good for Park City," Phillips said. "It shows that teams are not going to come up here and run over us or throw snowballs at us. It proves we can actually play some baseball."
Although the season ended this week, the boys of summer won’t disappear. The fall league or "fall ball," as it is called, will begin the second week of September and include all boys not involved in other fall sports.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.