Climate may affect outcomes

LEWISTOWN — Do baseball teams that play in warm-weather climates have an advantage over those that don’t?

It’s a question that the Mifflin County 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars will soon have an answer as they begin a quest to win their second national championship in three years when the Babe Ruth World Series commences on Friday in Longview, Washington.

In the 2016 Babe Ruth World Series, Mifflin County did not play a team from south of the Mason-Dixon Line until the final. In pool play, the 13-year-old champions faced Ohio Valley (W 4-3), Midwest Plains (L 6-2), New England (W 9-1), and Ottumwa, Iowa (W 11-1). Mifflin County met Midwest Plains (W 7-6) again in the semifinals and beat Hawaii, the Pacific Southwest champion, in the finals, 5-3.

In 2018, Mifflin County’s first two games will be against teams from the Sun Belt – Southeast and Pacific Southwest. The theory is those teams have an advantage because they have a longer season — they can play all year long.

So, back to the initial question — do baseball teams who play in warm weather climates have an advantage over those who don’t? According to Scott Reigle, coach of the 13-year-old national champs two years ago, the answer is yes and no.

“Traditionally, teams that have come from the Southeast in Florida and the Pacific Southwest have done well in the tournament. It’s an advantage to everybody to start on January and play through the end of June, which a lot of teams do in those regions, but does that make them better than we are? I would say no,” Reigle said. “The core of this team (Mifflin County) won the 13-year-old World Series, so it doesn’t mean somebody from the North like Albany, Wisconsin, couldn’t win it. They could have a young Sandy Koufax out there that shuts everybody down. If a team had two dominant pitchers like that, they would have to be the favorite.”

Yes, the Sun Belt teams have the advantage, for the most part, by playing all year round, but in the end, winning championships comes down to who has the most talent and experience. For Reigle, experience is the x-factor for Mifflin County.

“Historically, the two toughest regions are the Pacific Southwest and the Southeast, but that doesn’t mean somebody from outside those regions can’t win in any given year,” Reigle said. “Sometimes the genes are just in the players no matter if they are from Minnesota or Florida. The advantage, I believe, is for Mifflin County, because they’ve been there, won it before, and have the talent. The experience is a definite plus.”

This year’s field is new and inexperienced in World Series play, except for Mifflin County.

“What helps us is we have been here and won it recently. Pearl City, Hawaii, won the 14-year-old championship last year (after losing to Mifflin County as 13-year-olds) and didn’t make it back as 15-year-olds. Not one team is the same from when we won it,” Reigle said. “Our kids have been their before and they know what to expect. That is a big advantage for them.”

For Mifflin County to bring home another title, Reigle says they must play to their potential and limit mistakes – physical and mental. If they do that, good things will happen.

“They have to go out and play their game. They can’t make a lot of mistakes, which I don’t think they will. The best answer I have for Mifflin County to win is go out and play the way they’re capable of playing. If they play up to their potential they could win another World Series championship,” Reigle said.