The Quad-City Heat and the Quad-City Hitmen are not like most 8-and-under baseball teams in the Quad-City area.
In most youth baseball organizations, 8-and-under kids play coach-pitch.
However, both the Heat and Hitmen play in the kid-pitch Mississippi Valley Baseball League.
The league is a developmental league with 15 teams — 13 are 9-and-under teams.
“It’s a lot more like full high school baseball,” Daniel Bedell, the manager of the Heat, said about the league that allows leadoffs, pickoffs and stolen bases.
There is more for the players to try and understand about the game than most teams at this level, but Bedell hasn’t seen that being a problem for his team.
“There have been no problems grasping the rules, but there have been some problems in the execution,” he said, noting that it seems more physical than mental.
Also, unlike most 8-and-under teams in the area, the Heat and Hitmen were invited to the Junior World Series in Atlanta on July 7-13.
Both teams earned bids at a national invitational tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the beginning of June. The two were scheduled to meet in the championship game, but it was rained out.
While the Heat travel to Atlanta, the Hitmen will be staying home.
According to Quad-City Hitmen executive director Patrick Rangel, the team will not be making the trip for a couple of reasons.
“It falls on the same weekend as the Brian P. Rangel Memorial Tournament, so we’ll be staying here for that,” he said. Rangel also added that the travel was too much for the kids.
The Heat have committed to making the trip. In preparation for the trip, they raised money to defer some of the costs for the players.
“We have done a couple of independent fundraisers and raised quite a lot of money,” Bedell said. In addition, the team has raised money from a letter writing campaign, asking for donations from interested family members and friends. Bedell estimates that the team has raised more than $5,000.
All that is left for the Heat is to continue playing good baseball.
The Heat have played more than 40 games this season, but most of those have been against 9-under teams in the MVBL, which don’t count toward their USSSA ranking.
Against teams in their division, the Heat are 6-4 and ranked seventh in the state.
Bedell said that ranking was not indicative of how well the team had done, since most of its games were not in their division and the team had been playing against older competition in the area. But, against the top-three ranked teams in Iowa, the Heat are 2-1, falling only to the top-ranked Waukee Gators.
Bedell said most of the team’s success had been because of its top four pitchers: Connor and Ian Bedell, Jordan Copeland and Ronnie Kraklio.
The Heat are guaranteed five games when they arrive in Atlanta for the tournament, which begins July 7, and Bedell expects the atmosphere and the competition to be great.
“I’m expecting the competition to be like the top two or three teams in Iowa,” he said. “I believe it will be a situation where every game is competitive.”