POCAHONTAS — Pocahontas Area co-head baseball coaches Aaron Davidson and Brandon Ruffridge have a deep love for “America’s Pastime.”
The two have devoted countless hours and several years to the sport, both as a player themselves and now as a coach. That love has carried right over to four current members of the Indian team.
Both Davidson and Ruffridge have two sons on the roster in Jace and Christian Davidson, and Shea and Tyce Ruffridge. Jace Davidson is a junior, Christian Davidson a freshman, Shea Ruffridge a senior and Tyce Ruffridge an eighth-grader.
“I’m always excited to go to the ballpark, but having Shea and Tyce there with me certainly adds to that excitement because it’s extra time we get to be together,” said Brandon, who earlier this year won his 300th game. “We’ve missed out on a lot of baseball time and moments over the years due to my coaching. We get to embrace the sprint and summer grind together and that makes it much easier knowing we have each other there day after day.
“It really goes beyond words for me what it’s meant having them grow up around baseball. I’ve always been a big believer that the game of baseball is very similar to everyday life so I think I’ve been able to teach them both a lot of valuable lessons by playing the game and being in the dugout with me.”
Shea, who claimed a state wrestling title this past winter to add to the Ruffridge collection that includes championships captured by sister Elle on both the basketball court and cross country course, is headed to Grand View University in the fall to continue his career. While he admits summer wrestling would have been important, there was no chance he skipped out on his “boys of summer.”
“There was absolutely no hesitation in playing baseball,” Shea said. “Baseball has always been a big part of my life. I have been around the game for as long as I can remember. There really are few things that compare to playing ball with your best friends in the summer. I love all of my teammates on this team and feel like we have something really special.
“There was no way I was walking away from this sport and the teammates that I love so much. I wish I could be wrestling in Fargo and training all summer, but baseball is just as important to me. Winning a state title with my best friends would be the best way to top off my career at Pocahontas. I think this team has what it takes.”
Shea entered Tuesday night with 21 hits and 25 runs scored to go along with 17 steals and seven walks against just one strikeout. On the mound, he is 1-0 with 10 strikeouts in nine-plus innings.
Aaron Davidson, a St. Edmond graduate, has been coaching baseball since 1999. He knows as well as anybody that the “baseball season” starts well before opening day.
“To be a high school baseball player and coach, you really have to have a love for the game,” Aaron said. “You have the grind of getting 30-to-40-plus games in over a month-and-a-half, so you’re playing almost every single night. The baseball guys are pulled in many directions over the summer (with lifting, workouts, camps). I love being in the thick of it with the guys. To be going through the process with my two boys first-hand is special and I am not taking it for granted.
“It has been very rewarding to have both Jace and Christian grow up around baseball. It has been awesome to see how their love of the game has developed over the years and is continuing to develop. I am very blessed to have a front row seat to watch both of them compete at the high school level knowing how much they have sacrificed and how much time they have put in to play at a pretty high level of baseball.
“Because of this, we have so many life-long memories we will be able to share together down the road. My wife, Krystal, has played such a huge role in this as well. Being a coach’s wife isn’t easy. Krystal has been all in since I started. Also, my daughter, Taytum, never misses a game and is constantly supporting her dad and brothers, which is really special.”
Jace came into Tuesday night leading the Indians in hits (23), doubles (eight), RBI (19), on-base percentage (.534), slugging (.633) and batting average (.469). He is also 4-1 on the mound with a team-high 43 strikeouts against just six walks, having allowed only four earned runs in 26-plus innings.
“Having my dad by my side through every step of my baseball career has been more than what I could ever ask for,” Jace said. “My dad is very passionate about what he does, and he is a big reason why I love baseball as much as I do. He loves pushing the team and I to not only become great players, but great people, as well.
“Christian and I are not only brothers, but best friends. We are competitors who love going against each other and always try to beat the other one in whatever we are doing. It’s just brotherly love, but when it comes to playing with each other, we are pushing the other to their limits. We expect the best from each other and nothing else.”
Christian has collected 20 hits with 18 runs coming into Tuesday with 15 RBI and 18 steals. Like Shea and Jace, he is a top arm for Pocahontas Area, sitting at 2-2 with 21 strikeouts in 23-plus innings and just four walks issued.
“Jace and I always push each other to be the best,” Christian said. “We’re both extremely competitive and always hate to lose whether we’re playing 1-on-1 in the driveway or during an actual game. It’s been awesome to play with Jace as we both have the same goals of what we want to accomplish this year.
“And having my dad as a coach has been awesome. He has taught me everything I know about the game and has pushed me to be the best since I was little. I fell in love with baseball because of my dad, so having him by my side through my high school career is very special to me.”