Here are two words that are synonymous with two others: Chicago Cubs and next year.
Will the curse at Wrigley Field finally be lifted this summer? Who knows? Ask Tampa native Lou Pinella.
The same could apply to Ridge Manor.
The East Hernando County Dixie Youth League program has the least amount of players in its 12-team circuit.
It has also had the least amount of success during a decade of post-season play. Not one district championship – at any level.
But times may be a changing.
just last week, Ridge Manor’s AA Rookies (ages 7-8) solved a Spring Hill team for the first-time ever, 12-11.
That team entered Friday night’s District 6 semifinals in Wildwood as one of three teams left in the title chase.
On the heels of that success arrives a Ridge Manor AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Star team – with seven players who suited as All-Stars last summer – playing at Ridge Manor Community Park beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday against Wesley Chapel American in the opening round of the week-long, 12-team District 6 Tournament.
Ridge Manor skipper Paul Lineberry was asked about his first impressions of his current AAA Minors edition.
“The kids are knowledgeable. They know the game,” explained Coach Lineberry. “We have stressed basic fundamentals in practice since day one. If we play fundamental ball and cut down on the mistakes, we’ll be fine.”
Ridge Manor 101
This summer’s Ridge Manor AAA Minors All-Stars features 13 players including: Anthony Bagnasco, Uriah Johnston, Michael Lineberry, J.R. McBee, Anthony McLeod, Mitchel Meisberger, Brent Oliver, Ryan Linville, Patrick Puentes, Kasey Springer, Jacob Sullivan, Zack Mitchell and Cheyanne Carter.
Coach Lineberry will be assisted by John Sarafina and John Sullivan.
The team’s optimism rests with four players who played last summer for AAA Minors All-Stars including: McLeod, Meisberger, Puentes and Sullivan to compliment three AA Rookies All-Stars from last year: Lineberry, Linville and Mitchell.
Offensively, Ridge Manor offers an all-righty lineup featuring Lineberry batting leadoff.
Coach Lineberry said of his son’s selection to start things off, “He’s a good contact hitter.”
Look for Sullivan to bat second followed by the heart of the lineup in Puentes, Meisberger and McLeod.
“Those middle guys are all gap hitters,” noted Coach Lineberry. “After that we’ve got some guys that can help with our short game.”
Defensively, Coach Lineberry has penciled in Meisberger and his son behind the plate.
“Mitchel (Meisberger) is more experienced back there,” said Coach Lineberry and “Michael is a very confident player who can fill in when we need him.”
Coach Lineberry describes his shortstop Springer, “a little fireball with an arm.”
The veteran Carter will anchor second base.
Ridge Manor plans to utilize Johnston, McBee and Mitchell in the outfield with Mitchell patrolling center.
“We’ve worked extensively on our defense especially with our outfield,” said Coach Lineberry.
Like most teams, pitching will ultimately decide whether Ridge Manor is a title contender or pretender.
The Eastside club is banking on a trio of right-handers in Lineberry, Sullivan and Puentes.
“Puentes probably is the hardest thrower,” explained Coach Lineberry. “And Michael has a little better command. Jacob is just a solid all-round pitcher.”
What’s it like opening against Wesley Chapel American?
“It’s like putting your toes in the water,” described Coach Lineberry. “We’ll see what we’ll face after we get in. I’m hoping our defense will help keep us in games.”
“Probably the anxiety of the competition,” replied Coach Lineberry. “A tournament this big is a big deal for a town our size. If our bats come through like we’re capable of we could contend.”
What about hosting an event this large?
“We wish all the competition luck and hope they have a safe visit,” replied Coach Lineberry. “Our guys understand this isn’t just ‘another’ ballgame coming up Saturday. But there’s no pressure on us. We’re looked at as an underdog. As long as we give our best, I’ll be fine with that.”
2009 Ridge Manor AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars
No. Name Pos.
01 Anthony Bagnasco RF
02 Uriah Johnston LF
03 Michael Lineberry^ P/C
04 J.R. McBee RF
05 Anthony McLeod* 1B
06 Mitchel Meisberger* C/3B
07 Brent Oliver RF
08 Ryan Linville^ ALT
09 Patrick Puentes* P/SS
10 Kasey Springer SS
11 Jacob Sullivan* P/3B
12 Zack Mitchell^ CF
13 Cheyanne Carter 2B
Head Coach – Paul Lineberry.
Assistant Coaches – John Sarafina and John Sullivan.
* Denotes 2008 AAA Minors All-Star.
^ Denotes 2008 AA Rookies All-Star.
WHAT: Dixie Youth League Baseball AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars District 6 Tournament
WHO: Twelve teams including Bushnell, Hernando, Spring Hill American, Spring Hill National, South Lake, Sumter, Wesley Chapel American, Wesley Chapel National, Wildwood and host Ridge Manor in a double-elimination format.
WHEN: June 20-27
WHERE: Ridge Manor Community Park.
AT STAKE: District champion advances to July 11 Florida State Championship Tournament in Walton County in Paxton, FL.
Sports Editor Tony Castro can be reached at 352-544-5278 or reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.