2011-03-03 / News

Bush League: First-year president prepares for upcoming season

By Geoff Campbell

Eric Bush Eric Bush No stranger to the island or baseball, Eric Bush is the new president of the Jamestown Baseball Association, a Cal Ripken League affiliate.

Eric has lived in Jamestown since he was 3 years old and has played or coached baseball since he turned 7. He played on the American Legion Post 15 State Championship team of 1988 and although he was recruited to play soccer at Rhode Island College in 1989, Bush decided to play baseball instead.

At North Kingstown High School, Bush was a three-sport athlete, playing basketball, soccer and baseball. He was on the 1988 North Kingstown soccer team that won the state title, along with fellow Jamestowner, Steve Froberg.

His coaching assignments have also included a fiveyear stint as a player-coach of the George Donnelley Sunset League, which plays its home games at Cardines Field in Newport and where Bush laced up his cleats for 17 years.

Bush, who replaced longtime president Steve Cirella, has coached since 1997 in a variety of sports, including Lawn Avenue School teams and his own children’s community teams. He has run and participated in several summer baseball camps and has coached hitting in the offseason.

While at RIC, he also met his wife, Penny. He earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in health education and the other in physical education. He has been a physical education teacher on the island since 1997.

Along the way, Eric went to umpire school and while it didn’t land him at first base making calls in the World Series, it did round out his understanding of the game.

As president of the Jamestown league, Bush will use his training and experience to address issues and to thoughtfully manage the distribution of the players so that teams remain relatively even. To do this, he is making sure that players are placed in subdivisions to best match their skill level: Majors, minors or rookies.

The president of the association is supported by a local board of directors, the Rhode Island Cal Ripken organization and by approximately 40 volunteers, most of whom are parent-coaches. Jamestowners Mike Winkler and Art Spivac remain in leadership positions on the board.

The league is sponsored by a number of Jamestown organizations and businesses, including Baker’s Pharmacy, Ocean Point Insurance Agency and the Jamestown Rotary.

Cal Ripken Baseball serves kids from ages 4 through 12 as a division of Babe Ruth Baseball. Cal Ripken Baseball is similar to Little League Baseball, although it is a separate association. The divisions are majors, ages 9 to 12; minors, ages 8 to 10; rookie, ages 6 and 7; and T-ball for 4- and 5-year-olds.

According to Bush, other towns that sponsor Ripken league baseball include Apponaug and Johnston.

Bush said that girls are welcome and that membership by girls varies according to the turnout for the corresponding softball program. Bush said that softball numbers have been lower in recent years and that last year there was one girl in the majors and four in the minors.

Bush has thought about the role of parents in sports today and he urges parents to consider their role as baseball parents thoughtfully.

“Try to help your player get better,” Bush said. “Playing catch is the easiest thing. Play catch in the yard or wiffle ball in smaller outdoor spaces.”

Baseball is a complicated game of multiple skills, Bush explained, and helping your son or daughter break down the skills and practice each aspect separately will help them improve.

Once your player is on a team, “Get involved by being supportive of the coach,” he said. “Go and watch your kids play.”

Last year, Bush said, part of his contribution as association vice-president was to oversee the process by which teams were made. The total number of teams in the majors division went from four to three, which led to more cuts than the previous year, but also resulted in three “very even” teams with similar skill levels.

One of his goals is to make the minors mirror the majors. That would require, Bush said, a hard look at the coach-pitching format that is used in the first couple of weeks of the season.

He also wants to get minor league division coaches to teach kids what they need to know to play real baseball and to look the part, with tucked in shirts and hats worn properly.

Bush added that he is a baseball traditionalist.

Teams play twice a week and all-star teams are chosen. When the numbers and competitive levels are appropriate, the Jamestown all-star team will play other Cal Ripken League All-Star teams in the state.

Bush has three children with Penny: sons Colbey, 11, and Nolan, 9, and daughter Callie, 5. Callie will be playing T-ball this spring.

According to Eric, Colbey is a good all-around athlete who plays all over the field and may be recruited to pitch this year, and Nolan is all about baseball.

Bush described baseball as a game of failure, that a Hall of Fame player gets a hit three times out of 10; that means that seven out of 10 times at bat he is making an out. He added that striking out is OK because it is a part of the game.

Although baseball is a team game, Bush said, “You are on your own in the batter’s box, or in the field making a catch.”

A player needs to have immediate memory loss following a mistake. The next time he is atbat facing a pitcher or calling for a pop-up in right field, he can’t afford to think about previous mistakes.

This concept of failing at the plate a majority of times, particularly in this day in age when everyone gets a trophy, is diffi- cult for both parents and players. He said that players have to learn how to lose and be able to move on from it.

The registration deadline is March 31. The opening day parade will be held on May 7 and the season ends on June 25.

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