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Wayne Post
  • Rochester Ridgeman feel at home in Webster

  • Now in the second season of playing their home games at Basket Road Field in Webster, the Rochester Ridgemen feel they have found a place where they can settle in and make a positive impact in the community for many years.

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  • Now in the second season of playing their home games at Basket Road Field in Webster, the Rochester Ridgemen feel they have found a place where they can settle in and make a positive impact in the community for many years.
    The Ridgemen are one of 31 teams competing in 19 countries around the world this summer as part of a sports mission project under Athletes In Action (AIA). Founded in 1966, AIA is an organization that uses sports to help people answer questions about faith, and along with learning the game of baseball the members of the team also meet daily to discuss life and doing things the right way.
    “All the players and coaches meet daily to share thoughts on life and all sorts of different issues,” said General Manager Chris Rainwater. “We each a lot of meals together and do a lot of other activities together, and it we really just try to provide a positive environment for these guys to spend some of their summer.”
    The members of the Ridgemen hail from across the country, and are one of four baseball teams sponsored by AIA along with teams in Alaska, the Great Lakes and the Dominican Republic. Everyone who wishes to play for an AIA team must apply, and their time on the team is funded in part by individual sponsors. Between 250 and 300 players applied for the baseball program this summer, with close to 100 being selected to fill the four teams.
    Most of the Ridgemen players spend the summer with host families, all of whom volunteer to bring the young men into their homes. Host families are found all around the Rochester area, with lifelong relationships forming from the months spent with their second family.
    The Ridgemen compete in the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL), a wood bat development league that is partly funded by Major League Baseball. Since 1978 the NYCBL has provided college players who have yet to sign a professional contract an opportunity to develop their skills and gain experience with wood bats while being evaluated by pro scouts. Team in the NYCBL play a 40-game schedule, with an All-Star game in early July and a League Championship Series at the end of the month.
    “For a lot of the players, this is their first extended time playing with strictly wood bats,” said head coach Taylor Hargrove. “We like to say that metal bats are liars and that wood bats tell the truth, so you can find out a lot about who you are as a player and a person just by taking on this new challenge.”
    After previously playing their home games in Bolivar and Alfred over past seasons, the Ridgemen have now called Basket Road Field their home for the past two years. After calling Alfred home for three seasons, the Ridgemen still maintain strong relationships with the community and more specifically the host families who offered so much support over that time.
    Page 2 of 2 - “There are three teams in the NYCBL that make their homes in that area, and we still have a great relationship with a lot of those people,” added Rainwater. “We just had a little road trip to that area where we played those teams and also revisited some of our host families who were so supportive back when we called Alfred home. Baseball is a great way for us to join together and help us become people of faith.”
    Despite nearly all of the Ridgmen calling another part of the country their home, the time they spend in Webster is special to them in many different ways. For some the time spent in Western New York is their first in this part of the country, and for others it is the interaction with their host family that makes their trip special. Regardless of what makes their time as Ridgeman special, many feel like Webster has become a place they can also call home.
    “The entire experience of being part of this team is really a blessing,” said Josh Davis, who is in his second season with the Ridgemen and plays his college baseball at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. “The family I stay with is great, and being an only child it is a lot of fun to have a younger brother and sister to hang out with. The facilities and fields we get to play on are some of the best in the league and even though we are the Rochester Ridgemen, Webster really feels like our home.”

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