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by Editor, Rick Cabral

A Tale of Two Continents

This is a tale of two ballplayers—excellent in their own right—who, by luck of the draw, came together from different continents to star at Capital Christian High School. Not only do they wear the same uniform, they share the same bedroom and a dream of playing in the major leagues.  

Ben Ritchey is the All-American kid who plays baseball with a skill and savvy beyond his years. As a freshman at Capital Christian, he posted a 4-4-2 pitching record with 65 strikeouts (versus 24 walks) in 52 innings and a 2.56 ERA. Plus, he batted .459.

 

As a sophomore he improved the average to .493, but zoomed ahead in the pitching department, posting a 9-3 record with 85 Ks against 22 walks and a 1.78 ERA. He made All-Golden Empire League. 

 

He prides himself on his mound prowess. “I’ve always loved pitching,” Ritchey says. “I hit to help my team out, but I love pitching.” 


Two summers ago, a contingent from Capital Christian, led by Coach Nelson Randolph, went to Honduras on a baseball mission to pass out equipment, upgrade playing fields, and share the gospel, according to Andy Ritchey, Ben’s father and one of the chaperones. 
 

 

While playing a team from San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city, a lanky local lad asked if he could return to America with the “baseball missionaries” to fulfill his dream of playing in the United States. Prepared for this moment, Mr. Ritchey agreed to have Mauricio Dubon live with the Ritchey family where he could attend and play with Ben at Capital Christian.  

 

After all the travel arrangements were made, Ritchey remembers watching the boy saying goodbye to his parents, who knew that baseball afforded their son a better opportunity. He couldn’t help but wonder how difficult it must have been for these parents to watch their youngest son leave with a foreigner they had known less than three days.  

 

But Mauricio, also known as “Mauro,” was not just a typical Honduran youth with a dream. He was a star on the Honduran National Baseball Team from age seven to 14 and had established himself as the slickest fielding shortstop in his age group. Mauro’s 10-12 year old team won a championship in the Bronx, New York, so he was no stranger to international travel or success on the diamond. 

 

Registered to attend Capital Christian in fall 2010, Mauro quickly became homesick and returned to Honduras before stepping on campus. During that time, he continued to work out under the supervision of his older brother Danilo, also a Honduran National team player.  

 

Last summer, Dubon returned to the US and spent the summer living with the Ritchey family and playing on travel teams with Ben. This past fall, he enrolled at Capital Christian where he and Ben began their junior year. 


In his third varsity season, Ritchey continued his upward arc to prep greatness. He hit .513 with 12 doubles, three triples and one homer, while his pitching stats were some of the best in the area: 8-2-1 record with a scant 0.72 ERA (3rd best). He was named most valuable player of the Golden Empire League.

 

Dubon, on the other hand, came from nowhere to charge up the charts in several hitting categories for all Sacramento area players. He was fourth in regular season batting average with .563, smacked nine doubles, three triples and four home runs, plus he posted the second best RBI mark with 45 and led the area in slugging percentage with 1.085. 

 

And to top it off, he may have been the finest fielding shortstop in the four-county region (all due respect to Zach Green of Jesuit, who was drafted in the third round and just signed with Philadelphia). 


One night this past season at Raley Field, both Ritchey and Dubon showcased their skills and proved why they were among the elite players in the Sacramento area.  

 
Ben Ritchey pitching in a game at Raley Field.

 

Prior to the game against league rival Dixon, Ritchey was asked about Korey Hall, the Rams slugger, who at the time was leading the area with a .612 batting average. With Clint Eastwood-like coolness, Ritchey said he had a plan to get him out with a two-seam fastball above the hands.  

 

In the first inning, after dispatching the first two Dixon batters, Ritchey got two quick strikes on Hall. The next pitch, a two-seam fireball, zoomed in above Hall’s hands as he struck out swinging. Exactly as planned. Ritchey would cancel Hall on strikes once more, effectively yanking the batting title away (which went to Grant Heisinger of Bradshaw Christian with .600 average). 

 

In the bottom of the first inning, Dubon laced a hit in the gap and raced to third for a triple. Later, he smashed a ball over the left field fence near the Home Run Terrace. And for good measure, Mauro made one of the most dazzling defensive plays from the shortstop position of the high school season. 

 

With a Rams runner on first, he fielded a sharply-hit ball in the hole. Dubon raced to his right, slid to one knee while backhanding the hot smash, and in one fluid motion reversed direction and flipped a perfect throw to second base to start a successful double play. A web gem for sure. 

 

“It’s really nice knowing you have that behind you,” Ritchey said later. 


“Having two players with this much talent on our team is unbelievable,” says head coach Randolph. “It truly is a blessing,” said Randolph, who showered praise on both Ritchey and Dubon when told they had been selected to the All-Capitol Team by BaseballSacramento.com.


Dubon and Ritchey led Capital Christian to one of its finest seasons ever with a perfect 15-0 mark in league play and 24-5 overall record, which included a run in the playoffs. 


“I like to play with a chip on my shoulder, because people really don’t respect us so much since we’re a Division 5 school,” Ritchey says with refreshing honestly. “I go out there and really want to prove something every day.”  


He admits he wonders how he would stack up full-time against players from Division 1 or 2 teams. In a playoff tune-up against McClatchy he got a taste.  

 

With Capital Christian leading 7-1 in the sixth inning, Ritchey was summoned in relief with the bases loaded. Lions slugger Jared James, hitless on the day, stepped to the plate. With the count 1-2, Ben threw a change-up down and away. James, who would lead the area in home runs with seven, “stepped over (the plate) and stroked it,” Ritchey marvels, admitting giving up the grand slam was a first. “It was definitely humbling.” 

 

This summer, Ritchey and Dubon are  playing for the Sacramento Stingers, a 17U travel ball team organized and coached by Reggie Christiansen of Sacramento State, who led his team to a share of the Western Athletic Conference title in 2012. That team is chock full of some of the best talent in the area, including players from Jesuit, Oak Ridge and Granite Bay as well as lower division schools like Capital Christian.

 

In a recent qualifier for the Don Mattingly World Series, the Stingers swept the tournament (6-0 record) and Dubon was chosen MVP.   

CC_Dubon_Slides
Mauricio Dubon sliding into third base in a game at Raley Field.

 

When Dubon first reported to Capital Christian admittedly he thought of himself a slap-hitter known more for his glove and speed. Last fall, during a batting practice round, assistant coach Terrance Ballard asked Dubon if he was a contact hitter or a power hitter? The Honduran admitted he was the former. Ballard then bounced a baseball against his bat. “That’s contact,” the coach said, illustrating his point. “Now, let’s see you hit for power.”  

 

And from that moment on, Dubon did.  

 

“He’s a guy that has all the ability in the world. He just didn’t get all the information he needed,” Ballard said recently. “To me, he’s a kid that can’t miss. He just needs more seasoning (in college).” 

 

The two boys from different continents share more than just baseball. 

 

When Dubon moved into the Ritchey household, he was given his own room right next to Ben, whose two older sisters had moved out. The third night Ben was awakened by a knock on his door. It was Mauro, holding a blanket and asking if he could sleep in the same room. He admitted being scared, as he had never slept alone in his family’s home. From that time on, Ben and Mauricio have bunked together and become inseparable, both on and off the field. 

 

The Ritchey household has become his home and Mauro admits he’s thankful for this opportunity to live in America and attend a Christian school. “I’m a believer and it’s helped me improve my relationship with God.”  

Moreover, it will move him closer to his dream of becoming the first Honduran to play in the major leagues.

 

Ritchey shares a similar dream. “Pro baseball, that’s really what I have my heart set on.” 

 

Andy Ritchey continually preaches the value of a college education, and both boys are committed to making that their next step. 

 

But first they have one more season left at Capital Christian.  

 

And what a season it should be for two of the most talented and hard working prep players in the area. 

 

 Uploaded 06/27/12
All contents © Rick Cabral 2012

 

 

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