Youth baseball

Travel teams flock to Ho Chunk for 'top' youth baseball competition

2012-07-26T19:15:00Z 2012-07-29T01:51:11Z Travel teams flock to Ho Chunk for 'top' youth baseball competitionRobby Howard The Times
July 26, 2012 7:15 pm  • 

On any given Saturday in the summer, there are probably about 80 kids playing baseball at the Ho Chunk Sports Complex in Lynwood.

"I would say if you look at all of the places around, I would say this is probably a very high level of competition," South Shore Steelheads 14-and-under coach John Batistatos said. "If you're looking for a good place to play with good competition always, then this is it right here."

Almost all of the full-time travel teams in Northwest Indiana play in the Northern Illinois Metro League, which is headquartered at Ho Chunk.

"You've got teams from the Chicago suburbs, the Napervilles, the Orland Parks, Oak Forest, Oak Brook. You've got teams from the inner city of Chicago, and then you've got the best teams from Northwest Indiana," Batistatos said.

Last year, in the Steelheads' first season, Batistatos' then 13U team won the NIML championship.

"By winning the league and then winning the (BPA) World Series, our name did get out there as a good organization," Batistatos said. "That did help. That did help to get to recruit a lot of talent."

Most full-time travel teams feature kids from several different towns. Dave Griffin's Playmakers once featured a player from as far away as Granger, Ind., near South Bend. The Steelheads have players from seven different towns, ranging from Griffith to Valparaiso.

The kids who make travel teams may play up to 70 games in a season, depending on how their team does in each tournament. A team may only play three games in a tournament, or win-out and play six.

"Regardless of what type of athlete you are, you have to be mentally tough, because this can be very mentally grueling," said NWI Shockers 13U coach Joe Fushi. "You have to play six games and all of that stress."

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