What’s with rec summer ball

One 14-and-under boys’ baseball team. No 16-and-under boys’ baseball team or league. Three Senior Ponytail girls’ softball teams — that’s 15 to 18-year-olds.
Actually the Iola Recreation summer ball programs saw an increase in numbers for 2009 compared to 2008. The baseball numbers include T-Ball teams (boys and girls). 2008 — baseball 293, softball 135. 2009 — baseball 294, softball 162.
The number of participants grew in the younger leagues, T-Ball. Bitty Ball baseball, Pixie League softball. Also in 2008, Iola did not have the 15-18-year-old Senior Ponytail League at all because of a lack of players.
This year the Iola Recreation Department staff worked hard to stretch the girls interested in the Senior Ponytail League. There are three teams with the the bare minimum of players (9) on each. There are five Junior Ponytail League teams, for 11-12-13-year old girls. That’s up by one team, but again numbers are stretched thin.
Iola’s 14-and-under boys’ team is in a traveling league in Garnett. Not many home games. Last year there were two 14-and-under teams. Iola hasn’t had big interest in the 14-16-year old group of boys for several years.
Why do Iola’s recreational baseball and softball numbers grow thinner in older age groups? Work. Cars. Other sports commitments.
An explosion of traveling teams in various sports has taken place. Some traveling “summer” teams start playing their season in March and won’t finish up until August. There are baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball and football summer commitments.
Baseball, basketball and volleyball traveling teams pull from the younger ranks also. Kids are playing and practicing all week and weekend. Kids can be conditioning and practicing all day long if involved in more than one sport.
There’s no question that to succeed in any endeavor a person has to practice. But it takes quality practice to translate into quality success. I’m not sure today’s youth are achieving that goal.
For me — and mind you a lot of people will disagree with me and that’s fine — summer recreational sports are in place for two reasons: to have fun and learn fundamentals. Right now, I don’t know how much of either kids are getting.
Over the past month as I cover T-Ball to Senior Ponytail League games, it’s not just the kids in T-Ball bored with the game they are playing in. No, the older kids aren’t playing in the dirt or picking “flowers” in the outfield but there is not that energy and enthusiasm about just playing the game exhibited. A lot of our players are not engaged in the sport even while on the field.
Sure, people blame it on the heat. But summer ball games have always been played in the heat — it’s summer and it’s supposed to be hot.
Fundamental skills are not present in a lot of games. That’s too bad because as a former youth rec softball player who was not on a “win every game” team, learning the game was fun.