GUERNSEY – The Guernsey Braves bats are pinging loudly on the ballfields this spring.
According to Guernsey Braves head coach Gordon Noggle, the team is very different from last year’s team, and it’s partly due to older players with more experience who learned many lessons last year in their rookie season.
“We only had one kid who had played Little League last year,” Noggle said. “All these guys were new last year, so that’s the biggest difference.”
Although Noggle doesn’t blow his own horn or the horns of his coaches, the improvement over a year’s time has been marked and somewhat phenomenal. Instead of eight and nine-year-olds, the team has now grown to eight and ten-year-olds, and they also carry a 12-year-old on the roster.
Last year Guernsey was fielding two teams, but due to a lack of numbers and participation, they have combined forces for one mega-Guernsey team that is set to play a 12-game season; four of those games are home games, and the others are played away in Wheatland.
Most of the teams that play in the Platte County Little League are from Wheatland, but the Guernsey team has started 3-1 and last Thursday night in 40-degree weather, the Braves beat up on the Wheatland Red Sox 20-6. At this point, an 11-8 loss to the Wheatland Cubs is the only thing that stands between them and a perfect season.
This is Noggle’s tenth season coaching little league, and he has made it a part of his family, and all the Noggles are represented, whether it’s setting out equipment, keeping the scorebook, organizing schedules or bringing snacks.
Noggle’s wife, Danielle, who keeps the book and master schedule, makes sure her family’s uniforms are clean and ready to go is just a part of the Noggle Little League family experience.
It’s inspiring to watch my husband year after year build skills with these teams,” she said. “Both of our boys have benefited from having a coaching dad, and that just means the coaching doesn’t stop when you leave the field. It’s not always dingers and sunshine, but the kids take something away from each season, and I’m just happy to be a small part of that.”
The hard part about watching the teams compete at this age is the questions surrounding the future.
For Wheatland, the kids can complete Little League and go into the Legion program to continue their high school careers.
For many of the Guernsey kids, there is no local Legion team, and due to the lower numbers and other logistics, they retire from a sport they love and may be really gifted to play. At this point, if a Guernsey athlete wants to continue his career, he must come up with a lot of money which not only includes the $1000 participation fee, but the travel is either 30 miles to Wheatland or 30 miles to Torrington.
“It’s so hit and miss,” Noggle said. “In the summertime, it’s tough, even for us having a team here. We had one kid in soccer, one in track, a couple that are still doing wrestling, and one kid who races race cars on the weekends. We also have three different kids on travel teams. It’s tough to get a kid here sometimes for a full practice.”
Without a future, decisions are made to be part of sports where they can perhaps find a future and develop more of a passion. According to Noggle, summer is a time for competing against other things
“Guernsey has had a handful of kids in the past go down and play Legion ball,” Noggle said. “A few have done Torrington, and a few have done Wheatland. It just depends upon what age group. Traditional schedules of the past don’t exist anymore, and the face of summer sports has changed.”