Summer fun

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

In just over a week, the parade of Selma’s finest young ball players will commence.

Opening day for youth baseball and softball will be Thursday, April 6 at Ralph “Shug” Jordan Memorial Stadium at 6 p.m.

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This is the second year the city has held opening ceremonies for boys and girls on the same night.

According to Selma Parks and recreation Director Elton Reece, the sight of more than 2,500 young ball players is something to behold.

“It’s a great opportunity to see all the kids, their coaches and their parents fill up the football stadium,” he said. “We kick off the regular season April 7, and it continues through the end of June when we finish up with all the city tournaments. With the support of the mayor and the city council, there’s no reason for any child in Selma or Dallas County not to play because it’s at no cost.”

Reese said that’s one of things that’s has kept the number of players up every year.

In 1991, there were 44 teams in all sports. Now there are 140. Although the parents of players in other sports have to pay for a part of the uniform, the cost is minimal when compared with other cities.

Playing summer ball is more than just a way to keep kids occupied when they’re out of school, however.

“We also have a 4-year-old summer T-ball program,” Reece said. “It’s probably the first time kids of different races play together on the same team. It puts the coaches, kids and parents together and gets them to interact with each other. It’s a cultural learning process.”

Summer leagues also provide a solid foundation for players as they move up in age.

Strong high school programs are usually made up of players that excelled in youth ball, and the chain continues on higher up.

A winner of five All-Star World Series since 1969, Selma is no stranger to good competition.

“In 11 and 12-year-old baseball, there are 16 teams with probably 180 kids,” Reece said. “By the time they move to Dixie Boys (13-14), that cuts probably in half. In Dixie Majors, there are six teams. So by the time they get to Dixie Boys, the ones playing consider baseball something they’re interested in.

“Just about everyone playing Dixie Majors is playing high school baseball. Some of them play in junior college and college baseball.”

Like so many other organizations in Selma, Parks and Recreation depends heavily on volunteers.

All the coaches in the summer work on a volunteer basis.

“There are all types of people coaching,” Reese said. “Every vocation you can think of – lawyers, sanitation workers, mail carriers – all kinds of people. And a lot of times the parents forget the coaches work real jobs just like they do.”

The summer is not the only time the city parks stay busy, however. Football, basketball and soccer are offered to the county’s youth.

“The parks service anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 kids a year,” Reese said. In a county with 20,000 people, that’s a pretty good number. There’s a lot to do.”