Posted 7/12/16 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
Ray’s high school baseball season ended May 16, but Garrett Hodenfield wasn’t off the field for long.
Hodenfield swapped out his Ray Jays uniform this summer for some new threads as a member of Williston’s American Legion and Babe Ruth baseball teams -- the Keybirds and Oilers, respectively.
This is Hodenfield’s first year in this program, and despite being the only player on the roster who isn’t from Williston, he said he’s always felt welcome.
“It’s been a pretty fun new experience,” he said. “I get some more playing time, get to meet some new kids and go different places. It makes for a busy summer.”
Ray has had a high school baseball program for three years now but hasn’t generated enough interest to bring back its own American Legion baseball program.
That has put the Jays at a disadvantage against the more successful teams in its region, all of which are in towns that offer both.
“Our season is a short one,” Jays coach Ben Schafer said. “Baseball is a game of repetition, so an extra season can really add valuable experience for a player.”
Schafer said he encouraged Hodenfield to play Legion ball.
“He loves baseball, and this is an opportunity to really immerse himself,” he said. “It’s always nice for players to be around new ideas.”
Stanley and Crosby are the nearest Class B towns with Legion teams, but the Class A play in Williston provides a higher degree of competition.
Hodenfield said he has personal ambitions beyond the high-school level as well.
“I might want to play college baseball, so I need to get some more game experience,” he said.
Though three years with the Jays makes him one of their seasoned veterans, on the Keybirds’ roster he is among the youngest. He and three others will be juniors next school year, while the rest are seniors or have graduated.
“The other guys are pretty good, but they’re older and more experienced,” he said. “I think I’ll be doing pretty well when my time comes.”
For now, Hodenfield gets irregular playing time, which is why he also suits up for the Oilers on occasion. He alternates between the positions of pitcher and shortstop, just like he does with the Jays.
He said a small cheering section from Ray has shown up at some of his games.
“A few friends have come watched,” he said. “It’s nice to get to play in front of them.”
The Keybirds’ final scheduled home game of the season is Friday at 5:30 p.m. The team plays at Aafedt Stadium on Davidson Drive in Williston.