Stapleton resident Dustin Dinges is a proud man right now. His team of SE Denver Baseball League 12-year-old all-stars played in the Cal Ripken World Series this August in Aberdeen, Md. “First and foremost, they’re all great kids and they also share a passion for baseball,” says Dinges, who has coached most of the boys since they were 9 and a couple since age 7.
The SE Denver Baseball League, made up of many players from Stapleton, Park Hill and Lowry, is the second team from Colorado to ever advance to the World Series and the first in the 45-year history of SE Denver. Dinges coached alongside Andy Monroe and Jayson Thompsen.
Dinges describes the Cal Ripken World Series as a major league-like experience for young players. Cal Ripken played and coached for a total of 37 years with the Baltimore Orioles and his two sons combined played 33 years in the major leagues.
Ten U.S. teams and eight international teams qualified. West Raleigh, N.C., won the championship against Mexico to be first U.S. team in four years to win.
The SE Denver Baseball League went 1:4 in the series. “We did really well in the regionals, but underperformed in Maryland,” says Campbell Thurman, right fielder and relief pitcher from Lowry. He thinks the pressure may have gotten to the team. It was the biggest stadium they’ve played at. Plus, they attended ceremonies, press conferences and media interviews. “It was a lot more than they’re used to,” Dinges says.
In a heartbreaking finish, the team lost 8:9 against Arkansas when a base runner on third stole home as the SE Denver pitcher was walking back to the mound. The loss stopped SE Denver from advancing to their first international game, which would’ve been against Australia. “It was frustrating we had to go out that way,” Thurman says.
Caleb Monroe, outfielder from Stapleton, says the team faced the best pitching they’ve seen. While at bat against an exceptional pitcher, he stays confident and thinks of all the times he’s gotten good hits. “Then I see what happens,” he says. His best moment during the tournament was a hit into right field. “It was only a single, but I’ll take it.”
Nate Dinges, center fielder from Stapleton, says, “We didn’t play our regular baseball. We were tight and tense.” He’s proud of how he dealt with the pressure, though. He was awarded the All-Defensive Team-Gold Glove Award for the best center fielder out of all 10 U.S. teams.
Although the results weren’t what they hoped, the team is proud to have made it to the once-in-a-lifetime tournament. Jack Michalek, who was named to the All-Tournament Team for catcher position selected out of the 10 U.S. teams, says he’s proud of the SE Denver Baseball League, who are some of his best friends, and proud of the coaches. “Our coaches are nice, strict, and you know what they expect you to do.”
This is Dustin Dinges’s last year coaching the team, which he will miss immensely. “A lot of the individuals have worked really hard over the years, and the quality of play has changed dramatically.” He wants to continue supporting the players and looks forward to watching their games next season.