Clarkdale-Jerome baseball enjoys massive turnaround

Clarkdale-Jerome seventh grader Ben Behlow prepares to tag out a Camp Verde runner on Thursday at home. VVN/James Kelley

Clarkdale-Jerome seventh grader Ben Behlow prepares to tag out a Camp Verde runner on Thursday at home. VVN/James Kelley

Clarkdale-Jerome head baseball coach/school resource officer Mike Brundridge made his players what seemed like a safe promise before the season.

He told his players that if they won two games in a row then he’d find the money to fund a team trip to a Los Angeles Dodgers spring training game.

After the Rams, who went 3-14 last year, played their first two games, he had to go to Clarkdale Police Chief Randy Taylor to collect on his promise.

Through the CPD donation fund, they were able to send around 23 kids to a Dodgers game.

“They were in awe, it was really cool to see that, because like I said, some of the kids wouldn’t be able to afford something like that and we just piled up a bus and a couple of our personal cars and just went down to Phoenix and they just had a ball,” Brundridge said.

Even after fulfilling their part of the deal, the Mingus Rams just kept on winning. They started the season 9-0 and outscored opponents 91-14 until they dropped their first game of the season on Thursday to Camp Verde.

“Our team is unbelievable,” Brundridge said. “I told them don’t let this loss define them, that we’re going to move on and

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Clarkdale-Jerome seventh grader Pops Godina pitches against Camp Verde Middle School on Thursday at home. VVN/James Kelley

move on to our game on Monday.”

Brundridge took over last season and found a team lacking in confidence.

This season he added four assistant coaches: Sean Guth, Carlos Godina, Scott Buckley and Rudy Arroyo. Guth, Carlos Godina and Rudy Arroyo are also Clarkdale police officers and Buckley owns Scott’s Main Street Café.

“It’s awesome, being here everyday as a school resource officer I get to build relationships with these guys and that’s what I love is bringing the other coaches on that are also Clarkdale officers and like I said these kids see us now as role models and people they can look up to instead of people who just arrest people and take them to jail it’s awesome to see the transition of these kids looking up to us,” Brundridge said.

Brundridge said the key to their turnaround has been building their confidence and the Rams’ hard work. They practiced even in the rain and snow.

“They put their heart and soul into this team and they give me 110 percent everyday and I couldn’t be more proud of these kids,” Brundridge said.

The Rams are young too, they only have four eighth graders out of the 17 on their roster.

Brundridge said a couple seventh graders and a sixth grader lead the way.

“Our ‘stars’ I guess you could say are Ben Behlow, he’s a seventh grader, he started pitching for us (Thursday) and played third base,” Brundridge said. “Isiah Godina, we call him Pops, that’s officer Godina’s son, he’s one of our stars, he pitched second of (Thursday’s game) and Xzayvier Buckner is a sixth grader, he’s the one who caught He didn’t get to pitch (Thursday) because he pitched on Monday’s game but he’s also one of our studs.”

Clarkdale-Jerome’s next home game is Monday at 4 p.m. against Mayer.

The Rams are looking to make history.

“Clarkdale baseball has never won a league championship and I work here, so everyday when I walk in that gym at lunch time, I point out that empty spot where baseball banners go and I say we will get one and this year we will get one of them.” Brundridge said.

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