TWO DEDICATED KIDS GO THE DISTANCE
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
John Schmidt and Dollen Stroup.
Best friends? Close friends?
It was hard to tell as these two members of the La Grande Rain Roofing American Legion baseball team were preparing for their tournament opener Friday evening.
They laughed and joked around before their turns in the batting cage.
"He's the man," Schmidt said of Stroup.
Schmidt said Stroup was planning on striking out 12 batters in Friday's game against Sumner.
"(We'll) see how it goes," said Stroup, who did not pitch Friday because he has been sick the past few days, but is slated to pitch today.
Silliness aside, these guys travel from Wallowa County to play the game they really love.
"Baseball is pretty much my life," Schmidt said.
Schmidt tried to recall when he got into the sport, saying that he did not know what was going on when he tried it seven or eight seasons ago.
"Uh, don't know," Stroup said about why he likes the sport. "It's a game I love, being on the field. Nothing is more fun."
Schmidt and Stroup played for Joseph High School this year. Schmidt moved from Chicago last summer. Stroup graduated this year. Schmidt will be a junior.
Stroup, who lives in Enterprise but attended Jo-Hi, said he needs to work on his hitting during the tournament.
"Overall, everything," Schmidt said about what he needs to work on. "Getting faster."
Schmidt has played right field the past two games because the team was short on outfielders. He played third base for Joseph.
Third baseman Tanner Mellinger and Schmidt swap positions when Mellinger pitches.
Stroup is versatile. He plays in the outfield, pitches and catches.
Rain Roofing swept through its regional tournament last year, and Stroup thinks the team has a good chance this week.
"Really good, as long as we play as a team," he said.
Rain Roofing fell to Sumner 10-8 in Friday's contest. It will have to bounce back tonight against Glendive, Mont., in the losers' bracket to defend last year's regional title.
The tournament continues until Tuesday at Optimist Field.
During tournaments, Stroup and Schmidt stay with Rain Roofing teammate, Jason Smith, a La Grande High School graduate.
Schmidt has another year to play high school baseball.
Stroup will attend George Fox University in Newberg this fall. He will major in elementary education.