august2009

OTTO-Winston, Missouri Boys Fastpitch

August 26, 2009

Yucaipa, CA


Royals claim second consecutive national championship

WINSTON, MISSOURI - Imitation and lots of practice go far in
developing athletic skill. And that includes learning how to windmill
a softball underhanded.

10-year-old Craig Lewis and his brother, Jacob, 8, will vouch for that.

On August 1-2, the two brothers pitched their Northwest Missouri
Royals age 10-under boys' fastpitch softball team to an Amateur
Softball Association (ASA) National Championship at Caswell Park in
North Mankato, Minnesota.

The Royals marched through the four-team national tournament
undefeated (5-0) and knocked off the Garden City, Minnesota / Key
City Big Dog, 12-2, in the championship to claim their second
consecutive national championship in the 10-under division.

The Lewis brothers combined to allow but two runs and six hits in the
entire tournament. But they had plenty of help from their teammates.
The Royals hitting machine outscored its opponents by a 59-2 margin.
And the defense was nearly flawless committing but one error the
entire tournament.

Head Coach Eric Lewis praised the boys' performance and the support
of the parents. Especially the dads of whom many are former or
current fastpitch players.

"Several of the dads played fastpitch together on the old Road
Runners / Thunder teams of northwest Missouri," said Lewis, who is
the Winston High School principal, athletic director, and coach of
the boys' softball and basketball teams.

"Our parents all were very dedicated. They and the boys' sisters
threw a lot of batting practice at home to help these baseball
players make the transition to fastpitch."

Eric Lewis, 42, has been pitching fastpitch softball since he was 14.
As a youngster, he watched his dad, Nylen, pitch and soon young Eric
was windmilling himself. And when Craig and Jacob came along, the
family tradition was destined to continue.

"Craig started imitating me when he was about 3 or 4," Lewis said.
"We started playing catch in the living room and he just started
pitching bigger balls and further distances as he grew up."

Lewis said that he and his boys practice two or three times each week
during the winter months. When spring and summer come, the practices
intensify outdoors. And Craig has no doubt all that practice has paid
off.

"I like playing for my team and I like practicing my pitching," Craig
said. "I want us to be successful."

The Royals are comprised of boys from the northwest Missouri towns of
Winston, Maryville, Conception Junction, Guilford, Fairfax, and
Stanberry. And along with Lewis, the coaches include Tim Jermain and
Randy Luke. All three coaches have been long-time friends, and they
are all fastpitch players.

Luke said that the boys excel in several sports, including his son,
Cory, who played the infield for the Royals.

"This group of boys love to play sports," Luke said, "whether its
football, basketball, baseball, they are pretty competitive. They
enjoy fastpitch because it's a faster game and closer (shorter
distance to the bases) than baseball. This has given Cory an
opportunity to enjoy the sport as much as I have when I played."

Danny Zimmerman didn't know a lot about boys' fastpitch when his son,
John, 10, joined the Royals. He says that John, a pitcher, infielder,
and catcher in baseball, quickly grew a liking for the underhanded
sport.

"He loves it," said Danny Zimmerman. "The highlight for John was
turning a 6-4-3 double play. He thinks fastpitch is awesome. Our
whole family had a blast at the national tournament not only watching
our team but the other (divisions) too. The age 23-under division was
amazing to watch."

Missouri had a strong presence in the nationals. Stanberry Northwest
Implement claimed the 16-under division, while the Amazonia
Rockhounds finished fourth in the 18-under. And the Stanberry
Northwest Implement 23-under team finished with a respectable 2-2
record.

With back-to-back national titles in the 10-under division, Lewis and
his coaches have their sights set on moving up to the ASA 12-Under
division. But that could be a problem. This year, the ASA was unable
to offer 12-under and 14-under divisions because of a lack of teams.

So Lewis is on a mission.

"I've been contacting the other 10-under coaches (Brian Swanson,
Brian Johnson, and Travis Young) from this year's tournament and we
are all trying to recruit more fastpitch dads to get involved and
start teams," he said.

As for the Royals, Lewis plans on entering teams in both the10-under
and 12-under divisions in the 2010 ASA national tournament. And he's
also trying to start a summer boys' fastpitch program.

"There are no boys' leagues at this time, but we are trying to start
them by next summer," Lewis said. "We have met some hesitation by the
baseball people, but to ease their fears, we are trying to wait until
after baseball is over in July and then start two leagues for 12-
under and high school."

But next July will come soon enough. Right now the Royals are basking
in the after glow of a national championship. They've been written up
in the local newspapers. Friends and family have cheered and praised
their efforts. Town dignitaries have lauded their accomplishments.

And the championship trophy the Royals carted home is making its
rounds to the boys' various elementary schools where it is on display
for all to see.

"Our trophy was put at the front of the gym with our (team) picture,"
said Craig Lewis. "My teachers and the janitors (congratulated) me."

The 2009 Northwest Royals National Champions include, Cole Craig,
Cory Luke, John Zimmerman, Brody Cooper, Morgan Farrell, Grant Meyer,
Alex Bean, Craig Lewis, Jacob Lewis, Jordan Leonard, Austin Rhoades,
and Ben Jermain. Coaches: Eric Lewis, Tim Jermain, Randy Luke.
Scorekeeper, Nylen Lewis.

Writer's comment: In my 45 years in fastpitch, Eric Lewis is one of
the most inspirational and energetic coaches I've ever interviewed.
His efforts to review the sport by recruiting and coaching youngsters
for his boys' teams is to be admired and praised.

To read more fastpitch softball stores, and see fastpitch photo
galleries, along with feature stores and commentary in other genre,
visit Bob Otto's website at www.ottoinfocus.com.

Got a fastpitch story idea? Email me at botto3@verizon.net
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