January 29, 2009
The little league program has been the avenue of connecting kids to America’s pastime for the past 53 years in Sedalia, but due to a declining enrollment, an undermanned staff and the high costs of registration, Sedalia has decided to welcome a new program that should alleviate the problems.
The West Central Missouri Baseball Association and the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri have partnered to introduce the rookie league program this season for kids ranging from 5 to 12 years of age. The new league will accompany the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program that’s been in place for the past two years for athletes 13 to 18 years old.
“For the past two years, the RBI program has improved its numbers while the little league has continued to decline,” RBI league Administrator Rob Liston said. “Our organization wanted to revitalize the baseball scene and we wanted to find a program where the kids could play real baseball at a younger age. At the same time, we got an invitation from Major League Baseball to participate in the pilot program of (Jr. RBI) in November.”
While still labeled the rookie league, the WCMBA is awaiting news of its possible inclusion into Jr. RBI---a pilot program established by MLB and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that gives the community better tools to improve the game.
Regardless if the request is approved by MLB, the new league will represent a change in the way Sedalia’s youth plays and participates in the game of baseball.
The young athletes will no longer succumb to the restrictive sanctions of Little League baseball. Instead, the kids will play by authentic MLB rules and look the part. The baseball players will be fitted with replica uniforms displaying the name of their major league team and will receive the benefit of better equipment and better game-time conditions. The WCMBA will provide the players with accurate score keeping, a problem in the past, and will hold more fundraisers to aid in getting the players properly equipped with gloves, bats, baseballs and the essential resources to play the game.
“We’re going to hit the fundraising trail pretty heavy in the upcoming weeks,” WCMBA President Allen Wilken said. “The fundraising will determine the amount we’ll charge the kids to play. Regardless, it will be significantly less than last year.”
The previous costs of $45 per kid will be a thing of the past and the resources will be more readily available for the underprivileged families searching for ways to properly equip their kids.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri will help counter the community fundraising through its involvement with MLB and the BGCA.
“Any public fundraising that’s done in the community will be done in the name of the West Central Missouri Baseball Association. The piece we bring to the table is funding opportunities through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Major League Baseball and the grant writing component,” Boys & Girls Club of West Central Missouri Executive Director Brett Barth-Fagan said. ...“We really hope to eventually make the baseball program free to where the kids don’t have to pay to play, to pay to learn the basics of America’s pastime.”
The program’s participants will also have the luxury of more hitting camps and tutorials to progress their skills, along with being led by the most astute and well-prepared coaches. The screened coaches will not only pass on a myriad of baseball skills to the players, but also life skills through the BGCA’s QuickSMART program.
“It’s a curriculum based for coaches to teach kids about healthy decision making, positive relationship building, effects of drug and alcohol abuse and things of that nature,” Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri RBI Coordinator Daniel Savage said. “It will be my responsibility to educate coaches on the program so they can in turn implement that to their kids.”
With the new makeup of the league, the WCMBA is hoping the transition will bring in more kids to reap the rewards. As of last year, the RBI and little league program supported 150 players. With the new transition to MLB rules, better training and a broader network for fundraising and community involvement, both leagues are looking to accommodate a combined 600 kids in the near future. With sites located in neighboring towns, the Boys & Girls Club of West Central Missouri will be a big factor in reaching a broader network of kids.
“We don’t just reach Sedalia, we reach the outlying communities and through that involvement, I think the numbers can only go up,” Savage said.
The WCMBA and Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri have worked hard to get the ball rolling, but in order to make the league’s successful, the community will have to do its part in establishing the RBI and Rookie League program as fixtures in Sedalia’s sport scene.
“A lot of the success hinges on the parent involvement,” Wilken said. “We need volunteers for scoreboard keeping and we need numbers to execute all the intangibles to bring the best experience onto the field.”
“We’ve worked hard to bring this to fruition and we need the community to back all the hard work that’s been put into place.”