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Park Rapids Youth Baseball to hold registration nights, revise league

Registration for the Park Rapids Youth Baseball program will be held Monday (April 7) and Wednesday (April 9) from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Century School.

Parents of all players ages 5 through 12 as of May 1, 2008 interested in playing youth baseball this summer are urged to register on one of these two nights. Fees ($40 for ages 5 through 8 and $50 for ages 9 through 12) will be collected during registration. Players who have not been in the program before should bring a copy of their birth certificate.

In addition, the baseball league is looking for people who would like to purchase a tree for $50 apiece to be planted at the fields. Information and order forms will be available during registration.

The Park Rapids Youth Baseball program, which is governed under the Cal Ripken Baseball League, will be revised this year. Instead of having one league for ages 9 through 12, the league will split into a major league for ages 11 and 12 and a minor league for ages 9 and 10.

"Our reason to change the way league operations were done is simple. Our job as coaches is to teach kids skills, develop baseball (and softball) players and instill the concepts of fair play, teamwork, losing with dignity and winning with modesty. We were doing a good job at most of these things, but we were having a problem of developing players because our older kids weren't competing against a team of their own age group," said Ed Waggoner, who is one of seven members of the Park Rapids Youth Baseball Board. "How can you develop a 9-year-old player if they never field a position besides outfield? A 9-year-old couldn't compete and in most cases was scared of facing a 12-year-old pitcher who was a foot taller and 60 pounds heavier. That is why we are splitting up our age groups."

To set up the new league, all players - new and returning - will go through a tryout for the coaches to determine their skill level and be drafted onto teams. No player will be cut.

The minor league (ages 9 and 10) will have games consisting of five innings. A pitcher can pitch a maximum of three innings per day and five innings per week. Each team may only hit through the batting order once. With 10 players in the field, a maximum of 10 players will bat an inning. An inning will end earlier if three outs in the field are recorded. There will be no base stealing. Games will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Century School fields.

The major league (ages 11 and 12) will feature six-inning games with nine players in the field. Pitchers are limited to four innings pitched per day and six innings per week. Games will start at 7:15 p.m.

In addition to having three or four Park Rapids teams in each league, the league will play games against Nevis (two teams), Walker and Menahga. Park Rapids players will have to travel for road games at Nevis twice, Menahga once and Walker once. These road games will start at 6:30 p.m.

"Park Rapids, like most towns, is experiencing a trend of fewer and fewer kids coming out for sports. Nevis, Walker and Menahga are having similar problems," said Waggoner. "Park Rapids Youth Baseball was getting to the point of having to drop a team this year after doing just that last year. Merging leagues with towns that are natural and regional rivals just made sense."

Some coaching positions have been set. Jay Eystad, Steve Bade and Waggoner will coach minor league teams. Jason McCollum, Jeff Renner and Jeff Naeve will coach major league teams. More coaches may be needed.

A tryout date for players in the minor league and major league is still being set. That information - along with starting dates for the leagues - will be available at registration.

Contact Jay or Nancy Eystad at 732-1200 with any questions.