Need a break from MLB? Check out college summer baseball.

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It looks like it’s been a long summer for Washington-area baseball fans. The Nationals are 21-36 (21 wins, 35 losses) heading into Wednesday’s game, fourth-worst in Major League Baseball. The nearby Baltimore Orioles aren’t much better at 24-33.

What’s a baseball fan supposed to do? My advice is to check out the college summer leagues. It is leagues from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Alaska. If you’re outside the DC area this summer, check online to see if there’s one nearby. Washington area baseball fans have the Cal Ripken’s Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL).

What is the CRCBL? It is a top college baseball league with seven teams in the Washington area. There are teams in the District (Gray DC), Maryland (Bethesda’s Great Train, Gaithersburg Giants, Olney Cropdusters, Silver Spring – Takoma Thunderbolts) and Virginia (Ace of AlexandriaMetro SOCO Braves in Lorton).

The CRCBL grew out of the Clark Griffith Collegiate Baseball League which began in 1945. Teams in this league used to play games on the Ellipse, the park which is only one home circuit away. White in Washington.

Now teams play a 36-game schedule in June and July at small baseball diamonds where kids can get closer to the action. They can even chase foul balls flying through the stands or get autographs from their favorite players.

Some of the ballparks are lovely. The Grays play their games at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, which is nestled among townhouses in a neighborhood near Fort Dupont in southeast Washington. At Montgomery Blair High School, where the Thunderbolts play, you can see firefighters sitting outside their stations watching the action beyond the left field fence.

But Povich Field, where the Bethesda Big Train plays, is the best. Named after former Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich, the 750-seat stadium is surrounded by Cabin John Regional Park. You can watch a baseball game and eat an ice cream cone as the sun sets behind the trees in right field.

You will be watching top flight baseball. Players come from colleges across the country to play in the CRCBL. Players use wooden bats because Major League Baseball scouts want to see how college stars do with the same bats the pros use.

The league’s website says more than 75 former CRCBL players went on to play professional ball, including dozens who reached the major leagues.

Brandon LoweTampa Bay Rays second baseman, and Hunter Renfroe, the Milwaukee Brewers right fielder, played several summers ago for the Bethesda Big Train. They must have learned something because Lowe hit 39 home runs last season and Renfroe blew 31.

It’s always great to see a talented young player before they go to the “show”, but most importantly, CRCBL games are good old-fashioned entertainment. The crackle of the bat. The flash of leather. Baseball on a hot summer night.

About Justin Howze

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