Play Ball This Spring at Bloomingdale Little League
Spring opening ceremonies set for March 5.
"I love this place," said Todd Oliver, surveying the Bloomingdale Little League fields from his golf cart. "This is a place where memories are made."
Oliver should know.
The player agent for the T-ball division at Bloomingdale Little League and father of two current players, Oliver literally grew up at the Bloomingdale Little League.
"I took my first pitch on the field over there in 1974 at the age of 7 years old," said Oliver, pointing to a field closest to Bloomingdale Avenue and Culbreath Road. "I played Little League until I was 16 years old."
The Bloomingdale Little League was founded in 1969. Oliver's father, Jack, was a member of the league's board of directors along with Jim Barfield, Chuck Slowey and Greg Harrell. Jack Oliver bought the league's first pitching machine out of his own pocket.
"Back then, there were only three fields," he said. "You can still see the outline of the old fields on a Google map. Lithia-Pinecrest and Bloomingdale Avenue just had a flashing light, and there was no YMCA. We used to practice in a cow pasture off Little Road.
Bloomingdale Little League, he said, was the hub of the community's social activity.
"Growing up, Bloomingdale Little League played more of a role in my social life than school," he said. "I still keep in touch with old teammates. There was a lot of camaraderie here."
He wants the same experience for his own sons, Jake, 6, and Zander, 8, who are the third generation of Olivers to play at Bloomingdale Little League. Oliver also has a 21-year-old son who played at the league in the '90s.
But today, it takes much more to keep the league going, said Oliver's wife, Christine, publicity chairwoman for the league.
The league now attracts 700 players in the fall and 800 to 900 players in the spring. Hillsborough County owns the park and maintains outside the park's fenced areas but the Little League is responsible for maintenance of the fields.
"It costs $250,000 a year to run this program," said Christine Oliver. "That includes mowing, weeding and maintaining the fields, a salary for a facilities manager as well as scholarships for our Challenger players.
The Bloomingdale Little League Challenger Division, one of the only Challenger divisions in Hillsborough County, was established in 1989 as a separate division of Little League Baseball to enable boys and girls with physical and mental challenges, ages 5 to 18, to enjoy the game of baseball.
"The Little League philosophy is that everyone should have a chance to play ball," said Christine Oliver. "That's why sponsorships are so important to us. Sponsorships keep us running. "
With opening ceremonies scheduled for March 5 at 11 a.m., Kenny Hawkins, president of the Bloomingdale Little League, is looking forward to another successful ball season.
"Our Spring 2010 season saw many teams do very well in post-season play," he said. "We had a 9/10 Boys American Team advance to the Sectionals. The 10/11 National Boys advanced and won the Sectionals and went on to the State Championship. The 9/10 Girls advanced and won the Sectionals and went onto the State Championship. The 10/11 Major and Senior Girls also advanced into the Sectionals. The Senior Boys teams won the District and a spot in the Sectionals as well."
Hawkins said the league depends on volunteers for its success.
"We are always looking for dedicated volunteers. Managers, coaches, concession stand managers and board members are always needed," he said. "E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions as to how you can help make a difference at BLL."
For more information, visit www.bllfl.com/.