Thunder is a perfect nickname to describe a Coon Rapids/Andover American Little League (CRALL) A-Division team made up of 12 six-to eight-year-olds.
The team has posted back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and won the end of the season tournament last summer to finish 22-0. This year the team is 17-0 heading into the end of the season tournament which began July 11 at Sand Creek Park in Coon Rapids.
“I just want them to learn the fundamentals of the game,” coach Jim Abbas said during a practice behind Oak View Middle School in Andover.
“I’m not a big baseball guy, just a dad that said I would help. So there are a few things I’ve learned from other people but it’s also about having fun and obviously when they win they have much more fun.
“But I think at this age if they lose it stings for about 30 seconds to a minute.”
The coach-pitch league has a few modified rules to keep the game fun for all, including a five-run maximum per inning, except for the final inning and each batter can only go two bases unless it’s an over-the-fence home run. Each kid has to play a different position so they understand the role of the first baseman from the left fielder.
The Thunder has two home runs this season as eight-year-olds Sam Abbas and Carter Routsinoja connected on the long bombs.
Abbas’ blast was a two-run shot in the season opener with a larger-than-usual crowd at Sand Creek Park for the annual Players Appreciation Day June 1, while Routsinoja connected on a grand slam June 26 scoring Glenn Cyrus, Abbas and Matthew Olson.
“We got everyone out of the dugout to meet him at home plate,” Abbas said when his son hit the first home run.
The team, with four six-year-olds, four seven-year-olds, four eight-year-olds and two girls (Lucy and Ava) have out scored the opposition 214-27 with eight kids batting over .500.
That first base hit in an actual game induced more than a smile for some of the kids. One thing Abbas does after each game is to give out a game ball.
Of course, the two home runs served as easy decisions for the game ball, but everyone on the team has received the honor.
“One kid gets on base and has this big grin,” Abbas said. “It’s a big accomplishment.
“We’re out there to have fun and how can you take that away from the kid who has gone 0-for-18. So what if it goes two feet, the kid’s happy and next time if he does hit it he knows what to do.”