EPHRATA — What a spectacular setting it was on opening night at the Senior Babe Ruth World Series. Tournament officials rolled out the red carpet for the best Babe Ruth League players in the country, and took the time to honor the Columbia Basin’s best and brightest.
The opening ceremonies honored longtime coaches Dave Johnson of Ephrata and Pete Doumit from Moses Lake. They also paid tribute to the greatest River Dog team of all time, the 1998 World Champions.
The ’98 guys are pretty spread out these days, but seven players and coach Mike Rios had one more chance to tip their cap and enjoy some of that love from the national fan base. Ryan and Pete Doumit Jr. were there, along with the Boruffs Sam and Gabe. Brian Johnson and Ryan Handley made it as well. BJ Garbe had a prior commitment.
But there was one special surprise when Jason Cooper made a special trip to be with the guys who won the World Series championship in Dare County. N.C. in 1998. Cooper is a special assignment scout with the Chicago Cubs and spends most of his time on the road. He was in Detroit on assignment on Friday and flew into Seattle. He and his wife Suzanne, who’s also from Moses Lake, drove over to enjoy a quick reunion with the team that had seven players selected in the Major League Draft.
“I spent the last week in Detroit. But I knew this was going on and I could get home. It’s a wonderful honor and nice to give something back to baseball in the Columbia Basin,” said Cooper, who earned a World Series ring with the Cubs organization. “Coming to the park brought back all the old memories. We had a lot of great games here and it’s nice to see the guys again.”
That 1998 River Dogs team included Gabe Boruff, Bryan Johnson, Jim Lambro, Kyle Comstock, Jacob Eisen, and Sam Boruff from Ephrata. There was Ryan Doumit, BJ Garbe, Jason Cooper, Ryan Handley, Brian Skaug, Pete Doumit Jr. and Seth Johnson from Moses Lake.
Brent Duda, Doug Darwood, and Josh Hill were from Quincy, along with Jacob St. Mary from Othello and Stefan Bailie of Richland round off the roster.
Garbe (Minnesota), Cooper (Cleveland), Skaug (Houston), Bailie (Boston), Gabe Boruff (Kansas City), Brian Johnson (Baltimore) and Ryan Doumit (Pittsburgh) were all drafted and played professionally.
Cooper scouts and assesses baseball talent for a living. Seven guys from the same Babe Ruth team is an incredible tribute to the talent pool in the Columbia Basin and a credit to the coaches developing them.
“Even to this day, I’m not going to walk into any park and see that kind of talent we had on any one team. Even the guys from here that go on to play college ball is incredible,” he said. “The coaches all around the Basin have something to do with that development. I’m really lucky to be here; it brings all those memories back of special moments in my life.”
The Senior Babe Ruth guys won’t be playing for the ring Cooper wore on his hand that day. But it doesn’t hurt to dream big. You can get there from here with a little grit, hard work and determination.
The kid from Moses Lake with the Major League Baseball World Series ring made a concentrated effort to get back home, even if it was just for a day.
Besides, even with the wildfire smoke hanging over the Columbia Basin, it’s still cleaner air than Detroit.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.