Esko Nitro aim for World SeriesThe Esko Nitro baseball team is now known as Team Minnesota — and they are doing the Gopher State proud.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Esko Nitro baseball team is now known as Team Minnesota — and they are doing the Gopher State proud.
The collection of U-13 players won its first two games at the Intermediate Little League Central Regional Tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich., and faced the other unbeaten team, West Portage, Mich., Wednesday night as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press.
The team is vying for a spot in the first-ever Intermediate Little League World Series from July 30 to Aug. 5 in California.
“We’ve been ecstatic,” Nitro Coach Shawn Northey said. “There hasn’t been one single individual who has carried us. We’ve got a true team concept.”
The team, which is a combination of two Esko little league teams, plays what is known as “50/70” baseball, where the pitcher’s mound is 50 feet from home plate with 70 feet between bases. A full-sized diamond has a pitcher’s mound 60-feet, six-inches from home plate with 90 feet between bases.
Intermediate ball is a new concept for Little League.
“Where I came from they called it Cadet ball, in terms of the ages of the players,” Northey said.
The team defeated Jenison, Mich., 9-7 on Monday night with Quinn Fischer getting the win and Brendan Durand’s two-run double the key hit.
Best of all for the Nitro, though, is the small size of the community from which it’s drawn.
“When I say we come from a town of 4,000, people add one and sometimes two zeroes,” Northey said. “They ask how we can do that when we play teams from Grand Rapids (Michigan), Indiana, Illinois, South Milwaukee — major metropolitan areas.”
“To get here was our main goal but now every game we play is an extra layer of frosting on the cake,” Northey said. “Now the kids are saying ‘Why not us?’ They have seen the other teams play and they know we can compete and play great baseball.”
Northey is assisted by Jim Kaldahl and Eric Rish.
“The kids are every coach’s dream,” Northey said. “Every time they go out there, they make you proud. I just scratch my nose (to give a sign) and fill out the lineup card, and the kids do the rest. Their motto now is ‘You have my back, I have yours. Take a chance.’”