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SPORTS GUY: Future looks bright

So here we are, another year, another column being penned at a regional baseball tournament on the eve of high school fall practices opening. Despite the fact that last year my employer booked me into a hotel near where a fire was burning and this year's journey has brought me to the site of an FBI manhunt for prison escapees, I could get used to this.

And that appears to be a good thing.

Wyoming's baseball capital produced another memorable summer. After leaving many last year asking how things could get any better, we now know the answer.

The Babe Ruth All-Stars from Powell set the standard by which future seasons will be compared. After going 0-for-four during last year's trip west, this year's crew opened with a late-inning heartbreak loss, then rallied to claim their first-ever victory in regional competition.

Then came the fun stuff. The All-Stars steamrolled their hosts by an 11-0 count. They had a chance to seal their place with a victory, albeit against a Kelso, Wash., team that, by most accounts, would have fit in nicely at the Pioneers' tournament venue this past seekend. They got to experience the thrill and the angst that comes with having to watch a sporting event while knowing that your fate and your future rely on its outcome.

Ultimately, they got to experience something that no Wyoming team in a very long time — if ever — has been able to. They got to play baseball on semifinal Sunday at a regional tournament.

Any way you slice it, that's quite an accomplishment considering that very few other states send a team representative that isn't a compilation of several communities' worth of hand-selected all-stars. The significance of Powell's run in Klamath Falls simply cannot be overstated. It was simply the finest baseball run in Powell Babe Ruth history, and possibly in Wyoming history.

That success should also ensure a couple things. First, those younger than this year's All-Stars should embrace the challenge and the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of this year's team. See the goal, and strive to meet it. That's how dynasties are formed in any sport, and hopefully this year's crop of All-Stars will share their knowledge and experience with those a few years younger to help lay the foundation for future success.

Second, it should make the odds good that summer trips, such as the ones Pioneers fans have made to Utah and Montana the past two years, don't become things of the past. Success breeds both expectation and deeper hunger — trust me, I've been there — and back-to-back Babe Ruth regional appearances should set the table for a crop of young up-and-coming Legion players to want the same at the next level.

For those of you who are just returning from Oregon to read these words, congratulations on your success and thank you for the thrill ride you've taken this community and its fans on over these last couple of weeks. For the Pioneers who are moving on, thank you as well. Having spent two summers now chasing you guys around and following you on the diamond, I'm going to miss seeing you in the dugout as you move on in baseball and in life.

Anyone doubting whether baseball still has a place in the heart of America just needs to look at what it has done for Powell these past couple summers. It's given us a reason to be proud. It's united fans in their quest to find out the latest scores in venues in Oregon and Montana. It's had listeners here at home glued to radios and Internet web addresses.

Not many other things do that in this day and age.

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