It’s hard to know what to make of the local summer recreation baseball and softball program. No doubt it’s not the same as it was three or more decades ago, but the reasons for that are debatable.
Certainly the men’s slow-pitch program has changed. Hillsboro used to regularly have its own league of 10 to 12 teams. There hasn’t been a local league for years, although some slow-pitch enthusiasts still participate in a county-wide league.
The number of kids, or lack of kids, is a factor in the ebb and flow of the summer rec baseball and softball program. In 2010, 215 kids participated in everything from blast ball, to T-ball, to coach pitch, to 18-and-under baseball.
In 2011, we had 204 youth in summer baseball/softball programs, 248 in 2012 and just 201 this summer.
There tend to be more participants among younger children, as parents expose the kids to baseball and softball. But as kids grow up, the number of participants naturally declines.
Generally, it takes 10 to 15 kids to field a baseball or softball team. The lack of participants has resulted in Hillsboro only having one team in each of the following age groups this summer: 10-and-under girls’ softball, 12-and-under boys’ baseball and girls’ softball, 15-and-under baseball and 18-and-under baseball.
This summer, Hillsboro didn’t have enough girls to field a 16-and-under softball team.
Is any of this surprising?
A number of factors must be taken into consideration concerning the gradual decrease of teams from Hillsboro. This is a nationwide phenomenon: Baseball/softball no longer has exclusive rights to summer sports activities.
Some kids take the swimming route, either competitively or recreationally. Some prefer to play tennis or golf. Others play summer league basketball or attend volleyball and football camps. Then there are those who choose employment over play.
The fact is there are more options and opportunities for kids today than there were 30 to 40 years ago.
I don’t know that it’s the responsibility of the city’s recreation director to boost the profile of summer baseball and softball. The rec program probably reflects the interests of the community. The result is an ebb and flow in what programs are offered.
It’s hard to predict the future of the summer rec program. Certainly baseball and softball will continue to be the program with the most participants, but don’t ever expect it to return to days of yore, when it was the only game in town.
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If you have trouble with directions, you’ll appreciate this story. Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona got lost making a two-block walk to Progressive Field for the home opener this spring. Francona, who lives in downtown Cleveland during the season, was appreciative of the people on the streets on the day of the home opener.
Francona joked that he didn’t have a good sense of direction and was glad someone finally picked him up in a golf cart and got him to the ballpark.
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Let’s not let summer pass by without a few quotable quotes from former baseball players and managers.
• Satchel Paige: “I never threw an illegal pitch. The trouble is, once in a while I toss one that ain’t never been seen by this generation.”
• Tom Trebelhorn: “The last time the Cubs won the World Series was 1908. The last time they were in one was 1945. Hey, any team can have a bad century.”
• Hank Aaron: “Well, it took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball, and I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.”
• Yogi Berra: “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”
• Earl Wilson: “A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings.”
• Bob Uecker: “When I came up to bat with three men on and two outs in the ninth, I looked in the other team’s dugout and they were already in street clothes.”