2014-03-27 / News

Sign-ups near for young ballplayers ready for America’s pastime

By Margo Sullivan

Youngsters in Jamestown this spring will travel to North Kingstown and Newport to compete against ball teams in other communities. 
Photo by Jim Smith Youngsters in Jamestown this spring will travel to North Kingstown and Newport to compete against ball teams in other communities. Photo by Jim Smith Sure, islanders shoveled a little snow this week, but the calendar does not lie. It’s almost time to play ball, says Jamestown resident Ray Conover.

Registration for Cal Ripken Baseball will take place at the rec center on Friday, April 4, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Youngsters between the ages of 4 and 12 are eligible. Early-bird registration costs $80, and the price goes up to $100 after the cutoff date. According to Conover, treasurer for the Jamestown Baseball Association, families who enroll more than two youngsters will also catch a price break. They pay for only the first two players, and any other brothers and sisters play for free.

This year, he said, the youngsters will face more teams from neighboring communities. The schedule won’t just be Jamestown teams against other Jamestown teams. He said the organizers wanted to make the change because the local schedule has “lacked the competitive fire a lot of bigger cities” have.

His own son plays, so Conover is aware that kids can get tired of playing against their friends all the time. “Jamestown’s such a small place,” he said.

This year, the plan is to connect the Majors (ages 9 to 12) with their counterparts in the North Kingstown and Wickford baseball programs. The younger kids will play against Newport Little League teams.

The changes should make for a better season, he said. Besides seeing some teams for the first time, the youngsters will get the opportunity to travel to fields in other communities, as well as host the visitors at home.

Teaming up with other communities is now a statewide trend, Conover said.

It won’t add more games to the schedule, but organizers hope it adds more excitement and builds a competitive mindset.

With so many youngsters going out for soccer and lacrosse in the spring, participation in the sport has dwindled. That’s a problem for the cities, too, but it’s a bigger problem in a small town, said Conover. When Jamestown’s baseball league loses 15 youngsters, that means the league is down one entire team.

“We want to develop players’ skills,” he said, “and we need a more competitive league.”

Everyone will still receive recognition at the end of the season, Conover said, but the Jamestown league wants to keep the serious players at home and not lose them to teams in Cranston and Warwick.

The number of games and teams is still up in the air pending registration day.

Right now, Wickford and North Kingstown also are in the process of signing up players, so they don’t yet know how many teams they’ll be fielding.

Peter DiBiase, Eric Bush, Bob Clow and Dean Wagner are coaching the Majors this summer. They’re all certified Cal Ripken coaches, Conover said, and parent volunteers will coach the younger kids in the Minors.

Tryouts are April 14 and April 15 at the Lawn Avenue ball field. Conover is not announcing the time yet because the schedules are still being worked out. He said the two-day routine is really more a skills assessment for the younger players than a tryout. All the kids in the Minors will make a team, but the coaches want to see the players to better spread the talent around. The idea is to balance the skills as much as possible so one team doesn’t have all the talented athletes.

But for players in the Majors, the tryout is real. Coaches will dedicate a full day to looking at their skills to make sure the players have the talent to compete at the upper level without injuries. Basically, he said, they don’t want to put a youngster at shortstop only to find out he can’t catch a line drive.

Opening Day is May 3, and Conover is still working on the details. He isn’t sure who’s going to throw out the first pitch, but the day will be fun-filled and special, starting with the parade. The T-ball tots meet at the fire station and ride the trucks to Lawn Avenue, while the older players, in uniform, meet at the rec center and march behind the fire engines. Then the players will be introduced on the field, and they’ll see a little action in some round-robin games, Conover said.

Registration forms are available on the Jamestown Baseball Association Facebook page. So far, the page lists just a couple of big upcoming dates, but he expects Mike Anderson, who rolled out the social media page last season, to add some photos once the action starts. The coaches will update the page with announcements and will post any delays and cancellations.

New this summer, Conover said, the league plans to work out an arrangement for sponsors to meet prospective customers at the games. For one or two games a season, the sponsors can set up a table and let people know about their product or service. Also, the league has made arrangements for a food truck to sell refreshments. The truck will be at the field three times a week, since regulations don’t allow a concession stand at the field.

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