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Bat Rays have big sting

Youth Baseball

Newport Beach team has high expectations as it enters prestigious tourney in Cooperstown, N.Y.

August 12, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Courtesy of the…)

It's a lineup Robert Della Grotta never would've wanted to face as a pitcher.

On the Newport Beach Bat Rays under-12 club baseball team Della Grotta manages, there is no lock of explosiveness.

The Bat Rays sting the ball. Period. Especially for a team of 12-year-olds.

"My starting lineup for Cooperstown that I'm going to bring out, one through 10 can all hit the ball over the fence," Della Grotta said. "That's a good option to have as a coach, that every guy in your lineup can hit the ball 250 feet-plus. And some guys can hit it 300-plus."

The squad, composed primarily of players from Newport Beach Little League and Newport Harbor Baseball Assn., is ready to unleash its power on teams from all over the country. Next week the Bat Rays will travel to the Cooperstown Dreams Park in Cooperstown, N.Y., to play in the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame Invitational Tournament from Aug. 20-26.

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It's the third straight year the Bat Rays, which were founded in 2004, are sending a team to the city where the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is located. The previous two years the teams battled in Cooperstown, getting to the final 32. Della Grotta said he has higher goals for this team.

"I think the goal for this team is to win the whole thing," said Della Grotta, 26, who grew up in Newport Beach and pitched at Mater Dei High, Pepperdine, and for two years as a minor leaguer in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. "I'm going in to bring some hardware home."

Newport Beach Little League has never won a District 55 title at any level. But some of the top players from that league — including Brandon Cargile, Kevin Cox, Ryan Burgoyne, Chase Dugan, Nick Goddard, Billy Hardesty and Cole Dandeneau — are helping to change any negative perceptions with this Bat Rays team. The team also has players from Newport Harbor Baseball Assn., Mason Lindh and Spencer Neal. Lindh was on the NHBA team that recently advanced to the Pony Bronco Super Regional tournament.

Andres Hernandez, Jacob Collins, Marco Martinez and Irvine's Matt Moline are the other players on the Bat Rays squad. Moline is one of the team's top home-run hitters and has batted nearly .800 this summer, said Chuck Cargile, one of two assistant coaches along with Tom Neal.

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