As the spring season of the Bloomingdale Little League (BLL) winds down, the life lessons that participants learned over the last four months will be carried on for years to follow.
According to Kenny Hawkins, president of BLL, the goals of the program are not only to teach baseball and softball, but to also teach life lessons to all those involved in the sport.
“Teamwork and respect are a part of life and we channel that through baseball and softball,” said Hawkins. “We encourage adults to get involved so that they can teach those lessons. However, sometimes the adults learn valuable lessons through the actions of the kids.”
The success of this long-standing program, which began in 1969, is credited to volunteers.
“Little League by design is a volunteer organization and without them it is a struggle,” explained Hawkins. “Our biggest obstacle is finding enough volunteers to move the program forward.”
According to Hawkins, registration continues to grow each season.
“With 970 kids, ages 4 to 16, it takes a lot of work,” said Hawkins. The volunteers are needed to not only coach, but also operate three concession stands.
Relatively new to the BLL organization is the Challenger Division – a separate division which enables boys and girls with physical and mental challenges, ages 5 to 18 or the completion of high school, to enjoy the game of baseball.
According to the program director, Michael McDermott, registration numbers have also continued to grow for this division.
“I’m sure we are very close to a 99 percent return rate [this season] and we exceeded our numbers from 2010 by approximately 10 players this year,” said McDermott.
Getting the season off the ground is always challenging.
“Things slow down once the games begin,” said McDermott. “[Once the games begin] we have the opportunity to just go out and start having fun with the kids, helping them develop the skills and love for the game of baseball.”
Contrary to popular belief, the BLL playing fields are not a public facility. They are owned by the county and leased to BLL, which is responsible for 90 percent of the maintenance of the park. BLL has spent numerous hours and dollars to keep the grounds and fields maintained. This includes replacing some batting cage nets, L-screens and pitching areas. It remains a constant work in progress. Funding is made possible through fundraising efforts and community sponsors.
As the spring season winds down, park tournaments finish up this week. Some players will be gearing up for the All-Star games that begin in mid-June.
For those that are interested in playing or volunteering with the BBL, registration for the fall season will take place in late August and registration for the spring 2012 season will take place in January.