by RANDY GREGORY
The Rockford baseball program has achieved unparalleled success in recent seasons (including a state championship in 2011). One of the pillars that the team’s success has been predicated on is the summer program that nearly every Ram freshman, sophomore and junior from last season participates in. The teams are separated into two different age groups with Team Ram Black being primarily a 16-and-under team and Team Ram Orange being comprised of mostly 15-and-under players.
Team Ram Black has played 18 games so far and has amassed an overall record of 12-6. The team won their own tournament to kick off summer play and has played in various venues including the baseball stadiums at Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University. Team Ram Black has toppled state powers including the Michigan Red Sox, Lakes Dodgers, Lansing #205, Kalamazoo Maroons and Elite Baseball.
“We are very pleased with the success of the team so far this summer,” said Rockford head baseball coach Ian Hearn (who is the assistant coach for Steve Fusee on Team Ram Black). “We have played several 19-and-under teams that have as many as eight college players on the roster and held our own. We have seen a lot of growth from both a physical and mental perspective from all of our players while competing against some very talented competition.”
Fielding a roster of players solely from one school is not the recommended path to achieving consistent success in summer baseball tourney play. Most summer teams field players from multiple high schools, who are the cream of the crop of their various programs. But Rockford has followed their formula for several years now and more than acquitted themselves decently. The team has bonded not only in the camaraderie generated from spending time together, but also in becoming accustomed to the habits and tendencies of current and future teammates on the diamond. Team Ram Black is also occasionally hampered by having several of their players participating on other elite travel teams that may periodically conflict with their schedule. But that is no big deal, according to Hearn.
“We are always trying to compete and win whenever we take the field,” said Hearn. “But that isn’t what we are primarily about. When someone does miss a game or tourney, we perceive it as an opportunity to bring up one of our younger kids from Team Ram Orange and let them show us what they bring to the table. Our players will play as many as 80 games a year with their high school teammates, and the time they spend together is one of the things we feel is the key to a lot of our success recently and hopefully in the future.”