Hobbs USSSA team No. 1 in state
Under a blazing sun late Thursday afternoon, Ricky Carrillo hits grounders and fly balls to a group of eight-and-nine-year-olds spread across the baseball field next to Jefferson Elementary.
The kids, focused on the direction of Carrillo and a couple other adults that coach them, belong to a United States Specialty Sports Association 9U baseball travel team called the Hobbs Warriors. Carrillo is the head coach. They laugh at certain plays and make some mistakes as typical young children do in sports, but still correct themselves as part of the learning process. They practice three times per week, though this one is a bit different than most.
“This is one of our more boring practices, but we’ve got a tournament tomorrow. We’re keeping it light,” Carrillo said.
Heading into the first day of a tournament in Ruidoso today, the Warriors enter as the No. 1-ranked team in all of New Mexico in the U9 AA classification, per the USSSA website. In fact, they’re so good for their class, they’re also ranked No. 53 in the nation with 997 points.
Should the Warriors win the tournament, Carrillo believes it would be enough to promote the team to the AAA classification, which is just one below the Majors classification. The USSSA determines classes per success, so Carrillo is hoping his kids do well enough to advance to the next level while continuing to learn.
After all, it would be just another part of the team’s rapid pace of improvements, as the team has only been together 11 months. Most teams have been together for years.
“(No. 1) is a pretty good accomplishment,” Carrillo said. “It’s really good too because we’ve only been together 11 months. We have quite a bit of talent, and now we’re coming together as a family. That’s kind of what baseball is all about – family. It’s so crazy that we’re (No. 1) in so little time. And we’re only going to get better.”
Back in May, Carrillo and his son were coming off a travel team experience that just wasn’t right for them. Hobbs already has a very talented 9U travel team – Reckless – that has been together for years, so he gave starting up a new team a shot.
Of course, it was difficult, especially with how expensive travel ball in the USSSA can be. Tournaments alone cost about $500-600 per team, and mixed with uniforms, travel, food, hotels and other expenses, teams like the Warriors are left charging families monthly by kid while also hosting fund-raisers and collecting sponsors.
After tryouts, Carrillo took on about seven kids. As time went on, some more kids with enough talent to play travel ball made the team, and now the roster has 11 players.
The season for travel ball in the USSSA is year-round, though it’s official start and end is from August 1 to July 31. The World Series is in July, and that’s a week-long playoff that takes part all across the county by region. Teams can choose where they want to go, and the Warriors will play theirs in Dallas.
Part of doing well in the World Series is just improving in tournaments like the one today in Ruidoso. Just like how he expects to do in this tournament, though, Carrillo’s expectations for the World Series are more geared toward player development. He thinks the players will do well in Ruidoso, but even with the top ranking, it’s not like these players are crushing opposing teams.
“I expect to learn more,” Carrillo said. “Like I said, these kids have only been together 11 months. We’re still learning, we still learn every tournament. We’re still getting better. If you saw us when we first started to now, it’s outrageous how much we’ve improved.”
Still, it’s quite impressive what the Warriors have done thus far. And as Carrillo said, it’s probably only going to get better.