Has your child ever slid from one side of the house to another, imagining it’s the bottom of the ninth, two strikes on the board and there’s one last chance to win the big game? If so, East Orange Little League is the place to be for the upcoming spring ball season.
East Orange Little League (EOLL) operates two seasons a year. In spring 2010, the league hosted 72 teams with a total of 700 children and this fall they hosted 48 teams consisting of 400 total children. On average, each team is made up of 12 players. However, fall season generally consists of 10-11 players per team since it is “instructional” softball/baseball, specifically designed to give children the maximum amount of play experience. Both baseball and softball offer multiple opportunities for participants. The baseball league consists of T-ball, Coach Pitch, Rookie, Minor, Major, Junior, and Senior levels. Softball teams include Coach Pitch, Rookie, Minor, Major, Junior, and Senior levels, respectively.
Orange County Parks and Recreation Department supplies a park staff for the Little League, however adequate practice space remains one of the greatest obstacles for the league. In order to offer teams at least one field a week for practice, EOLL rents fields from the Waterford Lakes and Eastwood communities. Although there are diamonds sitting unused on school properties, perfect for practice, it remains a struggle to gain access from local school board officials. Game time takes place at the baseball and softball fields at Bithlo Park, which remain well maintained through the season.
In addition to working hard on the field, East Orange Little League players are hard workers in the classroom, too. Academics play a strong role in the league, even local teachers and administrators have children that participate on the baseball and softball teams. “Team sports help teach kids life skills – how to work together, handle conflict and work with others who might communicate differently from them,” states Dolly Glass, EOLL director of publicity and sponsorships. “The experience helps develop a solid foundation for the rest of their lives.”
So what is the key difference between spring and fall ball? Competition! In fall, managers and coaches are able to focus on improving each player’s skill set without the distraction of trying to win a championship or district tournaments. In addition, each team is required to bat their full roster. This standard suggests that children are given the opportunity to swing the bat regardless of their defensive status. Typically, beginning the Saturday after Labor Day, the fall season lasts roughly 10 weeks, completing the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving.
The spring season on the other hand requires players, parents, and coaches to concentrate on maintaining both sportsmanship and balance. Similar to the fall season, the minor league system remains as an instructional operation. Competition takes place in Major divisions and above. Interested spring ball participants must attend tryouts as well. Returning team members will remain on their current teams while a draft assigns new participants.
Once teams are formed in late January or the beginning of February, practices will begin. Many players start practicing and conditioning the first week of February, allotting time to strengthen teamwork approximately 3-4 weeks before Opening Day. A hat ceremony in the evening, along with an Opening Day event, in early March, kicks off the first games of the spring season. Teams will play over a 13-14 week period, extending through June, which includes division playoffs. Games take place Monday through Saturday, with no games on most Fridays. Approaching the end of spring season, the league sends a representative from the National and American divisions to compete for Top Team Tournaments and District All Stars.
The East Orange Little League is home of the 2010 District 24 All Start Champions for the 9/10, 10/11 and 11/12 baseball divisions. Recently, the league earned an Honorable Mention for most outstanding safety plan of all the Little Leagues in the Country.
Whether it is a fall or spring season, the fun remains the same and the kids come first with the East Orange Little League. “We are all members of the community long before we are on opposing sides of the diamond,” says Rich Viano, president of EOLL. “It’s important that we teach our kids to work hard, play hard, and maintain mutual respect at the same time.” So, if your child is looking to be the next big slugger of tomorrow they might want to start rounding the bases today with EOLL.\
Article by Carol Galbicsek