Need a break from MLB? Check out collegiate summer baseball.

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It looks like it may be a long summer for Washington-area baseball fans. The Nationals have a record of 21-36 (21 wins, 35 losses) going into Wednesday’s game, the fourth-worst in Major League Baseball. The nearby Baltimore Orioles are not much better at 24-33.

What’s a baseball fan supposed to do? My advice is to check out collegiate summer leagues. There are leagues from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Alaska. If you are outside the DC area this summer, check online to see if there is one nearby. Washington-area baseball fans have the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL).

What is the CRCBL? It’s a baseball league of top college players with seven teams in the Washington area. There are teams in the District (DC Grays), Maryland (Bethesda Big Train, Gaithersburg Giants, Olney Cropdusters, Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts) and Virginia (Alexandria Aces, Metro SOCO Braves in Lorton).

The CRCBL grew out of the Clark Griffith Collegiate Baseball League that started in 1945. Teams in that league used to play games on the Ellipse, the park that’s just a home run’s distance from the White House in Washington.

Now teams play a 36-game schedule during June and July in small ballparks where kids can get close to the action. They can even chase foul balls that fly into the stands or get autographs from their favorite players.

Some of the ballparks are charming. The Grays play their games at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, which is tucked among the rowhouses in a neighborhood near Fort Dupont in Southeast Washington. At Montgomery Blair High School, where the Thunderbolts play, you can see firefighters sitting outside their station watching the action from beyond the left field fence.

But Povich Field, where the Bethesda Big Train plays, is the best. Named after former Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich, the 750-seat stadium is surrounded by Cabin John Regional Park. You can watch a ballgame and eat an ice cream cone as the sun sets behind the trees in the right field.

You will be watching top-flight baseball. Players come from colleges across the country to play in the CRCBL. The players use wooden bats because Major League Baseball scouts want to see how the college stars do with the same bats the pros use.

The league website says that more than 75 former CRCBL players have gone on to play professional ball, including dozens who have made it to the major leagues.

Brandon Lowe, the second baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Hunter Renfroe, the right fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, played several summers ago for the Bethesda Big Train. They must have learned something because Lowe hit 39 home runs last season, and Renfroe blasted 31.

It’s always a thrill to see a talented young player before he makes it to “the show,” but most of all, CRCBL games are good, old-fashioned fun. The crack of the bat. The flash of leather. Baseball on a warm summer night.

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