"I think it was definitely a good year," league President Rich Hutson said. "Our numbers were up. We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community and our players seem to have an enjoyable experience."
Hutson said the league's board is made up of volunteers, which makes positive feedback all the more appreciated. He said two of the biggest compliments he receives revolve around the league's organization and smoothly-ran events as well as the professional communication it shares with league parents and participants.
Spanish Springs has become the perennial power among the state's Cal Ripken ranks. Last month, Spanish Springs won four of five age divisions in state tournament play, sending the four champions on to regional tournaments across the West. This has become the norm in recent years.
Hutson believes that speaks to the relative strength of the league.
"At the state level, we compete against other leagues whose numbers are down compared to ours," Hutson said. "Their talent pool is probably stretched a little bit, but obviously we didn't win all five divisions. So the other leagues are competitive. When it comes to regional tournaments, the toughness ticks up a couple notches and we're faced with very challenging competition."
Spanish Springs teams are gradually improving their performances at regional tournaments as well. More teams are winning more regional games. Two weeks ago, the Spanish Springs 11u all-stars reached the regional tourney semifinals, a first for any club from the local league.
"It's tough at regionals and rightfully so," Hutson said. "In the 10-to-12 tracks, those kids go to the world series if they win a regional. To do that, you have a pretty good baseball team. With our 11s going deep, that's a great thing. And our 12s didn't really show how competitive they are. They went in really having some confidence and hoping to win. They faced some pretty tough competition."
The Spanish Springs 12u all-star team went 1-3 at regionals but two of the three loses came by a combined three runs and it out-hit opponents in both of those tough-luck defeats.
Spanish Springs Cal Ripken has sent teams to regional tournaments in Hawaii, southern California, eastern Utah and just about everywhere in between. However, the Sparks-area league has never hosted a regional tournament. That could change in the future.
"We have put in a bid and the only feedback we've gotten is that a decision will be made probably toward the end of the calendar year," Hutson said. "There are a lot of other leagues that have shown interest. I feel we could accommodate and host three age groups. That might be a challenge and two would be more realistic, but it's a good venture for us. I absolutely believe our facilities are as good as any I've seen. Our snack bar may not be on par with some others but we can grill a burger as good as anybody else."
The league is constantly looking to upgrade its fields and facilities. Right now it's also looking to hold on to all its existing fields. The league has used the Sky Main field, which sits adjacent to the Pyramid Highway and La Posada Drive, but Washoe County owns the land.
Almost a year ago, Cal Ripken officials learned that field's days may be numbered.
"Last year in November or December, one of our board members overheard a news story on TV that indicated a (land) sale had been made," Hutson said. "We went back and checked the county commission minutes and sure enough those validated that story. It was kind of interesting we were not given the opportunity to attend a meeting. We contacted our county liaison and were pretty much told we wouldn't have that field this year.
"Then, about a month out from the start of the season, we heard there had been a delay in the process and we would have access to it for the spring 2013 season."
At the conclusion of the league's regular season in June, Hutson began to ask about the county's timetable. When would the league need to move its bleachers, clear out it's scorer's area and move its storage shed? He was then told that the land sale has not gone final and the league is not in imminent danger of losing the field. In fact, it's been granted a permit for league use this fall.
Hutson plans on being around a while to promote the league. It's a safe bet he and the rest of the league's board will continue to look out for youth baseball in the Spanish Springs valley.
"Field space is definitely at a premium," he said. "But we have a creative board. We'll make things work."