They play it in the north. They play it in the south, east and west. Now they’re going to play it in Jamestown. N.Y. to see who plays it the best, for this season anyway.
The Columbia Basin River Dogs won the Northern Washington state championship, parlayed that into the Pacific Northwest regional championship last week in Gillette, Wyo. Now they’ll see how it all that stacks up against the best in the nation at the Senior Babe Ruth World Series at Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park on the Jamestown Community College campus in upstate New York.
The 4,200 seat facility with dimensions of 335 feet to left field, 410 to straight away center and 342 to right field will serve as the backdrop in the showcase some of the best baseball talent in the country.
Columbia Basin, which is one of six teams in the National pool, opens the tournament on Sunday against the Southwest region champions from Mobile, Ala. The River Dogs last won a World Series in 2015. They have also won in 1998 and 1995.
The Columbia Basin Herald caught up with some of the guys that helped bring those national championships home.
Jason Cooper is currently in Washington D.C. doing some advanced work as a special scout for the Chicago Cubs. Cooper was on the River Dogs’ team that won a national championship in Dare County, North Carolina in 1998 and a part of the special Major League Baseball Draft that saw three players from out of Moses Lake High School selected in the top 63 in 1999.
The depth on the 2018 River Dogs team made it necessary to select the top 18 players to form one team, then utilize the remaining 16 on a separate squad.
“I think it shows we’re seeing a remarkably healthy level of competitiveness in the Basin that rivals the similar processes you see in California, Texas and Florida in constructing championship caliber clubs year in and year out,” said Cooper, who was originally drafted by the Phillies in 1999 and again by the Indians after he earned his bachelor’s degree at Stanford.
“There is a World Series pedigree that our area has established over the years and makes wearing the River Dogs uniform a very coveted thing, and rightfully so. Any time this many players are vying for a set number of spots it leads to an elevated level of competitiveness and raises the bar on expectations and our ability to toe the line with the very best across the nation, I have no doubt about that.”
Gabe Boruff was also a part of that 1998 team that saw seven players selected in the Major League Draft. He later coached the Moses Lake Pirates to a West Coast League championship and joined Washington State University as a catcher’s coach.
“My biggest impression is just how consistent the River Dogs have been over the past 25 years,” said Boruff, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 35th round of the 1998 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
“We obviously had pride to wear our high school colors, but the thing about playing for the River Dogs is that you're able to play with other players from the area and come together and become a great team. To be able to play with different kids gets you ready for college and even professional baseball. So for playing for something at the end of the summer is really important. It was certainly a great time in my life.”
Wenatchee AppleSox right-hander Hunter Boyd was on the latest River Dog team to win to win a World Series championship. He helped Moses Lake to the 4A state tournament a couple of times in high school, then led Yakima Valley to a NWAC championship. He was also a big arm on the 2015 River Dog team that won the national championship in Klamath Falls, Ore.
“(Playing in the World Series) is playing the same game in a different atmosphere,” Boyd said. “You have other fans and their home support, but in the end it’s still the same game. Babe Ruth was a fun three years for me. It’s pretty special to represent your town, your community all around the country.”
Cooper, a big left-handed batter who played first base and outfield, was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round, but opted to attend Stanford before pursuing a major-league career. He was re-drafted by the Indians in the third round of the 2002 draft, which kicked off a 10-year career in which he played parts of six seasons at the AAA level, the highest minor-league classification.
Boruff led the River Dogs to a third-place finish at the 2005 World Series and was part of the Lewis-Clark State NAIA national championship teams in 1999 and 2000. He was actually the head coach for the River Dogs (2004-05) and then the West Coast Collegiate League Moses Lake Pirates (2006-07) where he was named WCCBL Coach of the Year in 2007.
Boyd is currently a starting pitcher for the AppleSox and one of the most prominent pitchers in the West Coast Collegiate League.
Baseball has taken them in different directions, but they all have one thing in common, it all started with the Columbia Basin River Dogs. Once a River Dog always a River Dog.