Article by Ray Balogh
Photos by Mike Deak
WARSAW — In a historic first, Warsaw Little League started its season this year long before Major League Baseball takes the field July 23.
Following the pandemic-sensitive rules of Little League International and state and local quarantine guidelines, the league, this year hosting “36 teams and just under 400 kids,” commenced play June 15, according to Kristie Maiers, the league’s safety coordinator and liaison with the international organization.
“The kids and parents needed an outlet, some way to try to get back to a normal routine and life,” she said in explaining the board’s decision to launch the season. “The kids and coaches wanted to play.”
She said Warsaw Little League, which plays its games at the 22-acre Boggs Park, “has been around since 1952 with a very strong presence in the community. The purpose of Little League International is to provide all youth the opportunity to play baseball, regardless of skill level.
“Warsaw Little League also works with the high school baseball program to show what would be expected at that level.”
Warsaw High School baseball coach Adam Augustine serves on the Little League’s board and integrates the two baseball programs.
Tony Clay, league president, highlighted the importance of playing this particular summer. “As always Warsaw Little League is thrilled to provide a great family environment to watch or play some baseball when it is needed the most.”
Even when the league’s commencement was still iffy, the parents responded with optimistic enthusiasm. “We offered free refunds of the fees paid with no penalty — and ended up with two net players,” Clay said.
Though the opportunity to join the current season is closed, the league will launch its fifth year of fall baseball Sept. 13.
“We’ll play at least until Oct. 18 or go until Oct. 25 if the weather stays nice,” he said. Fall registration started Monday, July 13, with a fee of $75 per player. “We will have a cap on fees for families with multiple children,” noted Maiers.
The summer league is open to children 4-16 born between September 2003 and August 2016 and includes tee-ball, games with pitching machines and traditional games in three age categories.
The fall league is a “more casual, instructional league,” said Clay. “We will make it available for anyone who wants to play. We are thrilled the community came and supported the program. They definitely had a thirst for it.”
The league is taking extensive precautions against the COVID-19 infection. Team coolers and snacks are prohibited, dugouts are closed with players lining the foul line fences 6 feet apart and all equipment — including baseballs — are sanitized each night of play. Players may only give high fives with their mitts after the games.
The concession stand is open but only prepackaged goods are sold. During this hot summer, “we have tons of ice cream bars and plenty of drinks,” said Clay.
The league is also involved in a three-day summer baseball camp, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 4-6, at the high school’s Tiger Field. The camp, open to incoming third through eighth graders, will focus on hitting, fielding and base running. Sessions will be conducted by the high school coaching staff.
Anyone wishing to volunteer or donate to the league — “we have never turned down a volunteer or donor,” said Maiers — may call her at (269) 806-6399 or e-mail [email protected]
For more information, visit www.warsawlittleleague.com.