ROCKINGHAM — There is a lot more behind the scenes of the Richmond Rattlers’ summer baseball program than batting practice, lining the field and night games. And for head coach Ricky Young, coaching summertime ball is worth every drop of sweat.
Young, who has been a part of the local baseball scene since taking over the Richmond Senior High School program in 2009, takes pride in being able to coach some of Richmond County’s most talented ballplayers. As he enters his ninth year of coaching at Richmond, Young brings college pitching experience and many other intangibles to the program.
The Rattlers, which is comprised of two teams, compete in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League. The CCSSL has around 60 teams this summer, making it a great way for up-and-coming players to get extra playing experience. Young and assistant coach Drew Butler manage the senior team (which is made up of rising high school juniors and seniors), while Ralph Butler and Ty Bostick coach the junior team (rising freshmen and sophomores).
The two Rattlers teams, which are not directly affiliated with RSHS, compete with other central North Carolina clubs, as the season culminates in the CCSSL Tournament from July 20-22 in Sanford, N.C.
Players, whose only major requirement to play is to be enrolled in the school within their county, use this summer program as a way to finesse their skills and knowledge of the game. The junior team’s purpose, according to Young, is to introduce new players and get them acclimated to the Richmond program using a “low-pressure environment”, while allowing them the opportunity to play at a higher level of competition.
For returning players on the senior team, the program’s purpose is to give them the opportunity to continue to develop as a cohesive unit. A stronger emphasis is placed on winning, as many of the senior team players were members of this past spring’s Richmond team, and have played together before.
Though the two teams don’t practice on a regular basis during the summer months, Young realizes the significance of live games. It is the hope of the coaching staff that players will learn through live action, while continuing to progress as individuals and a team.
“We’re focused on trying to win,” Young said. “But at the same time, we’re trying to develop guys as well. We try to play everybody in these games, try to give everybody extended opportunities in the summer. They (the players) know that helps them for next spring.”
Young and his staff, who are more team-oriented than anything else, use summer ball performances as a way to prepare for school baseball workouts, which begin in September. It allows them to recognize what aspects of the game need to be addressed by the team.
The senior Rattlers’ season has been successful so far, as they’ve racked up an 11-1 record, while the junior team has managed to win five of its first 12 games.
“We kind of had a disappointing spring, by our standards,” Young said. “Our kids are hungry to turn things back around next spring. We made a commitment to each other that really starts this summer. They have played really hard, a lot of good chemistry, they’re good kids.”
The Rattlers’ next game will be Tuesday, July 11, as they visit Union Pines. First pitch for the junior team is at 3:45 p.m., followed by the senior’s game at 6 p.m.