YOUTH BASEBALL CLINIC, SUMMER LEAGUE PLANNED
BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
While many children across the country are abandoning baseball for other activities, a Fredericksburg group hopes to attract more youth to America’s pastime.
The Sunshine Baseball League will kickoff its summer sessions with a free skills clinic Sunday.
“We’re going to help them hone their skills,” said Bill Lynch, director of the Sunshine Ballpark Foundation. “And those that don’t have any skills, hopefully they’ll gain some.”
From 2008–13, participation in youth baseball teams throughout America dropped by 14 percent, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
In 2012, the Sunshine Ballpark opened up to combat that slump. The Sunshine Lady Foundation and the Ripken Foundation pitched in to fund the $3 million facility, which hosts baseball clinics, leagues, summer camps and other activities.
Local philanthropist Doris Buffett, who heads the Sunshine Lady Foundation, also gave money so that children who live in the city of Fredericksburg could participate in baseball leagues for free.
The summer baseball league will start in July, Lynch said. Registration ends June 10.
The league will offer an academy for children ages 6 to 8. Participants will practice once a week and learn pitching, hitting and catching techniques. Each child will receive a T-shirt.
Older players will be able to practice on weeknights and compete in league games on Saturday mornings.
During the games, free hot dogs, Cracker Jack and sodas will be provided, Lynch said.
He hopes to get enough players to field 10 teams.
Lynch also hopes the league attracts more children from lower-income families, because there is no fee for players who live in the 22401 ZIP code.
About 12 percent of children who play on baseball teams in America come from low-income families, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
Expanding access to baseball is important because youth learn about more than just pitching, hitting and catching , Lynch said.
“We’re teaching kids about the game of baseball, but also educating them in life skills,” he said.
Amy Flowers Umble: 540.735-1973
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