Huntingburg Little League prepares to take the fieldJune 2, 2020
BY JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — As Indiana opens back up, a picture for local summer sports is starting to take shape. The regularly scheduled programming for Huntingburg Little League was shelved back in March, but the board of directors started talking about what they could do to salvage some baseball in the summer.
“We’ve been talking as a board the entire time,” said Chad Blessinger, a board member and the player agent and safety officer. “Right about the time when the governor’s announcement came back that we could start things on June 14, we said we need to make some decisions.”
Blessinger and the league board sent out inquiries to league coaches to gauge interest in summer baseball. It was soon clear that it would be difficult to have normal league play with the interest numbers that were sourced. So the board chose to switch things up.
“We had some mediocre numbers, but not to where we shouldn’t have a meeting,” said Blessinger. “We got all of the board together, said, ‘Here’s our numbers,’ and, the more we talked about it, we made a decision we were going to go in a different direction.”
The focus shifted from structured league play to more informal gatherings for the kids to practice and develop their skills.
“We’ll begin as a clinic camp-type series,” said Southridge baseball coach Gene Mattingly, who advises the Huntingburg Little League Board of Directors. “We’ll work with the coaches that were originally coaches of the league to run the clinic. There will be an opportunity for kids to enhance their skills, their love of the game and baseball IQ without the pressure of wins and losses.”
Blessinger said the plan is to host clinic and practice activities four nights a week starting June 15. The kids would be split into two groups featuring 9- and 10-year-olds and 11- and 12-year-olds. Each group would get two days a week to practice using a Monday through Wednesday and Tuesday through Thursday split. After a couple of weeks of practice, the kids and coaches can form teams amongst themselves and scrimmage together.
“We’re calling it a Southridge Sandlot Summer,” said Blessinger, who noted that participation in the clinics is purely voluntary and hopes it can run for about six weeks through early August. “The big kids will show up on Mondays and Wednesdays, the little (kids) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All the coaches are onboard to help out.”
Blessinger thinks the new format is good for everyone involved. Kids that might see limited action during games now have the opportunity to have scores of at-bats and dozens of fielding reps.
“Those kids are going to get so much more direct work with coaches,” said Blessinger, who anticipates about 60 or so kids coming out to participate. “That’s the exciting part of where we’re taking this.”
Blessinger also said there will be measures taken to keep everyone safe during the ongoing pandemic. The kids will be kept in small groups so they can spread out, and each group will have their own set of equipment to minimize cross-contact between everyone.
“We still want to do the best we can to keep everybody safe,” Blessinger said.
Blessinger hopes the kids and coaches can use the time to reclaim a bit of what was lost when the coronavirus brought life to a halt in recent months. Everyone is banding together to have some fun and rediscover their love for the game.
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