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A dirtbag devotion for baseball

Loomis Dirtbags’ play pushes them to No. 1 in the state
By: Joshua Ansley Loomis Sports Editor
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From the sandlots of Loomis to nearly every corner of Northern California, the Dirtbags have risen to a No. 1 ranking in California after winning the Harvest Classic in Sunnyvale last weekend. The team, comprised of boys age 11 and under, is also ranked No. 18 in the country. As part of the United States Specialty Sports Association, the Dirtbags are two-time USSSA World Series qualifiers, two-time state champion runners up, and also winners of the Summer Heat Tournament that took place early this year. The team’s other affiliation is known as All-Star Travel Ball, which includes competitions from all over Northern California. Previously, the Dirtbags were also All-Star Travel Ball World Series qualifiers. The secret to the team’s success is no secret, it’s written right on the front of the players jersey’s; “Dirtbags.” The term “Dirtbag” has taken on a special meaning among baseball players since it was first introduced back in 1989 by the California State Long Beach 49ers. Now days it refers to giving 100 percent out there on the field. It first came about, however, after the 49ers spent two seasons playing without a home field, and having to practice on an all-dirt field. The players would end the practice covered in dirt; hence, the nickname they eventually earned, “Dirtbags.” “We’ve been dirtbags ever since the beginning,” coach Steve Schaffert said. “We have molded our team around that. We take practice very seriously, we have a practice agenda, and we get and get out. At the age these kids are, it’s the mental part of the game that has to be practiced.” The team began as a 9-and-under club that wanted to branch out from the Pony League after completing a season three years ago. No one wanted it to end. As the young players approached their parents and expressed their desire to continue playing, a new team was born. Since that time, the Dirtbags have maintained the same players and added four more. Schaffert said the kind of game the Dirtbags play is not your typical little league where everyone gets a trophy. “There is a lot more involved than what a normal little league would allow,” he said. “This is more like real baseball where there is leading off and stealing bases.” Schaffert knows a thing or two about real baseball, having played for what was at the time known as the Anaheim Angels farm club back in 1986-87. After moving up to Northern California, he coached at Foothill High for two years, and has been coaching youth baseball now for five years. Before coaching baseball year-round, Schaffert also coached his son’s youth football team. His son, Colton, said he quickly grew to love baseball more than football, however, so he joined the Dirtbags at their inception three years ago. Colton has played nearly ever position on the field at one point or another, but said his favorite is catcher, which he plays half of the time. “My favorite thing to do while playing catcher is to try and throw out a runner,” he said. “It’s fun.” Three of Colton’s teammates attend Placer Elementary with him. They include outfield and second baseman Zach Thomas, first baseman Casey Oldwin, and short stop Cody Oldwin. Cody Oldwin was the Most Valuable Player at the Summer Heat tournament early this year. He currently leads the team in RBI’s with 22 overall and is second on the team in runs with 26 so far on the season. In the Harvest Classic tournament, Oldwin amassed four RBI’s and five runs. There are a few other players high school coaches should be watching out for soon as well. Ryan McComb has a .588 batting average to lead the team. In the Harvest Classic he averaged .727 and led the team with six RBIs. Alex Fong leads the team in stolen bases with 34 on the season, and E.J. Vasquez has 28 runs to lead the Dirtbags. Although the 11-and-under Dirtbags practice at Loomis Park with grass, the team’s year-long commitment and hard work ethic has lived up to the Dirtbag name. Schaffert said the idea of the league they participate in is really to prepare the players for high school and beyond. But it takes a real commitment. He added that every players pays about a $330 fee for a season and helps to raise enough money for equipment, travel costs, and other expenses, which reach nearly $15,000 a year. As a non-profit organization, the team raises money through car washes, snack bars, and T-shirt sales to aid in the cost. “If we can raise enough money,” Schaffert added, “We plan on going to either the Omaha World Series, the Florida World Series, or the Cooperstown World Series, which we qualified for.” The Dirtbags are currently looking to add a few more players to the roster. To find out more information or to contact Coach Schaffert, visit www.dirtbag-nation.com. The team’s next game will be a double-header against Granite Bay on Sunday.