Granby MIddle Park baseball season begins this weekend |

Granby MIddle Park baseball season begins this weekend

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Believe it or not, its the start of the baseball season in Grand County as Middle Park Highs ballplayers get ready to play in their first game this weekend.Of course, the teams season opener will not be held here, but along Colorados Front Range where there is far less ice and snow.The first pitch of the Panthers 2008 baseball season will be thrown this Saturday as Middle Park takes on Weld Central in an 11 a.m. varsity game at Greeley. The junior varsity game will follow immediately afterwards.Weld Central 10-runned us last year and were looking for some payback, said coach James Newberry. We expect that game to get us ready for our first Metro League game, which will be next Tuesday at 3 p.m. in Denver against Lutheran.Middle Parks ballplayers are starting with an upbeat feeling about their prospects for this season. One important reason for that optimism is that the team has nine returning varsity players, including six starters from last season. Seven returning varsity players are seniors.These guys grew up together and had some success playing in Little League and on our local American Legion baseball team, Newberry said. We also got back Brian Moore, who was a ballplayer up here for years before moving to the Front Range, but hes transferred back up here for his senior year. Everyone knows and likes each other so weve got a lot of team cohesiveness.Newberry said one of the returning varsity members who will be a leader this season is Mike Zieff. A versatile player, he will be sharing duties as a pitcher, catcher and shortstop.P.J. Cross, another senior, was one of the top hitters in the league last season. He also pitches and plays the outfield.Panther senior Alex Morrow will be playing third base and may also share the shortstops duties.Brian Moore will be playing the outfield as well as pitching. Newberry said he has the potential to develop into a top pitcher for us.Middle Park senior Chad Sprague will be catching and playing the outfield. Newberry said he has hopes that Chad will step in as our No. 1 catcher.Ian Sutton, another senior, is the teams centerfielder and will be its lead-off batter. Ian is our best defensive player, Newberry said. He is so fast.Rounding out the teams seniors is Mike Stefanski who is expected to be the teams 4/5 hitter. Mike will be the anchor batter in our lineup, Newberry said. Were also looking at him to be our starting and closing pitcher.Also expected to make big contributions in the varsity games this season are several underclassmen Joey Coucke, Justen Strang, Matt Hydrusko, Jordan Reynolds, Greg Doudna, Mitchell Franek and Mitch Sprague.All of these underclassmen will be rotating between the varsity and junior varsity to give them the maximum number of innings this season, Newberry said. The remaining players of the 22-member lineup for the 2008 Middle Park High School baseball team will be on the junior varsity squad. Our JVs are a good-looking group of players, Newberry said. These younger players will be preparing themselves to step into varsity positions by next season.One of these players is Stetson Sabados, a West Grand High School student who commutes daily to train and play with the Panthers.The other Panther JV players include Ray Jennings, Amoldo Melina, A.J. Sapien, David Diamond, Shelby Garrett and Dominic Valdez.Also on this years baseball team is its first female player. Becca George Hugley, who was a top player on Middle Park Highs girls softball team last fall, joined the team originally as a manager, but is also now a member of its junior varsity squad. Newberry praised her infield playing skills.Along with their strong lineup of players, the Panthers are optimistic about the new season because of their new practice facility. They have been allotted three, two-hour time slots per week to practice inside the new indoor soccer facility in Granby.As controversial as the outside of that soccer facility is with some people, it sure is beautiful inside for the kids, Newberry said. When we first walked in here, I said this must be heaven. Then somebody said, No, its Granby with a dome.Newberry said the new indoor facility is an incredible asset to Middle Parks baseball players.It has given us the opportunity to actually throw 90 feet and hold a regulation-size infield practice, he said. These are two things this team has never been able to do in February, March and early April since this team formed in 1999. This is great for us, and we are very thankful to the soccer people for giving us this opportunity.Because official season practice for baseball begins in mid-February, the Panthers have always had to practice indoors because of the deep snow that usually covers their playing field until early April.For years, the team practiced in the gym of the old East Grand Middle School until it was demolished a couple of years ago. Since then, the Panthers have been practicing in the garage bays of the old Granby Fire Department building where they still practice pitching, hitting and some infield skills.We cant thank the Granby Fire Department enough for that. The use of the building has helped us so much, Newberry said.Thanks are also being given to Winter Park and Pat Acord who donated the use of their Sno-Cats to recently plow off the Panthers playing field in the hope that it would help speed up the spring melt. Newberry also wants to thank Morrow & Sons for transporting the Sno-Cats to Middle Park High to do the work.

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