With sunset less than three hours away and a light breeze blowing over Parque de Vida on July 14, Tim Passell knelt in a circle of young baseball players wearing baseball caps and holding baseball gloves.
As the longtime baseball coach, who arrived in Cortez with dreams of turning a small town into a baseball mecca, spoke, players in the circle listened and occasionally nodded. Passell’s message was clearly having an impact.
At first, the coach thanked his players for their sportsmanship and praised their intensity. Then, he spoke glowingly about the game that had concluded a few minutes earlier and lauded his players and his opponents.
Finally, Passell gave thanks for the game of baseball, which has been in his life for as long as he can remember. As players from opposing teams clasped hands, the brotherhood between them and the beauty of youth sports became evident to a small group of fans that looked on.
The essence of Little League Baseball was captured in one shining moment.
Local League shines brightBaseball has played an integral role in shaping the lives of young people in the area. Throughout the 1990s, games in Cortez were played on a small field near the American Legion.
As the Parque de Vida baseball complex developed two decades ago, games were moved to new fields, yet baseball’s presence in Montezuma County remained the same. In the past decade, the Southwest Colorado Little League was founded by a group of parents and board members who hoped to push baseball in the area to the next level.
Featuring divisions open to players from ages 4 to 18, enrollment has steadily increased, and weekday games on Parque de Vida fields have become synonymous with summer in Cortez.
As enrollment has increased, so has the success of Southwest Colorado Little League all-star teams, which have ranked among the most competitive in the state and routinely competed in tournaments throughout Colorado and beyond.
An all-star team representing Southwest Colorado Little League has won Colorado’s state championship in each of the past three seasons, and several teams in younger divisions have won district championships and regional championships.
League coaches can consistently be seen teaching the fundamentals of baseball while emphasizing the importance of sportsmanship and work ethic on and off the field. Parents associated with the league consistently praise life lessons that are taught and players consistently tout their positive experiences.
Fall season making a debutHoping to build on its recent success and keep its players on the field, the Southwest Little League is planning to offer a fall season for the first time this year, which will begin on Aug. 18.
The fall program will feature a micros division open to kids 6-8 years old, a minors division open to kids 9-11, and an intermediate division open to kids 11-13. The fall season will last eight weeks, and games will be played in Cortez and surrounding areas, mostly on Saturday afternoons.
Registration for the fall season will close on Aug. 3, and no late registrations will be accepted. Individuals interested in obtaining more information about the fall season can visit www.cortezlittleleague.com.