America’s pastime: Recreation League coaches needed

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 12, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Tracy Reece was busy Monday handing out equipment bags to little league baseball coaches. He helps administer a program that’s one of a kind in the state of Alabama.

The City of Selma makes a significant investment in its youth through Dixie Youth Baseball. This time of year, all that’s needed are more volunteer coaches.

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There are more than 2,000 area youths signed up for youth baseball and girl’s softball on one of 124 teams, starting at age 5.

The Selma Recreation Department now needs 12 additional coaches for the boys and girls of summer.

The City budgeted $725,832 for the recreation department this year, which is used for salaries, facility maintenance and programs.

Unique in that area, participants take part free of charge, the recreation department provides hats and game shirts.

The players have to provide their own pants, socks and cleats. There is no registration fee.

“We’re the only city in the state that does that,” said Elton Reece, who has worked in parks and recreations since 1973. He has seen the city league grow from 44 teams to its current size. The next best bargain for youths is offered in Florence, where participants pay a $10 registration fee, and buy their own uniforms.

The opening ceremony is set for April 12, and games begin on April 13. There is a playoff system for Dixie Boys and Youth Baseball that begins June 11. Dixie Majors, ages 15-18, begin play May 14. Tryouts for the six teams are set for April 23.

Each volunteer head coach is given a bag with bats, catcher’s gear, batting helmets and a couple dozen balls to practice with. They are also given the rules, a suggested practice format, and a practice schedule that includes evening and nights. Officials are also part of the recreation department, and have a preseason regimen under the direction of Terry Jackson. There is a pot of about 100 referees – mostly students – managed by Jackson, who has been with the recreation department for the past 10 years.

There are 11 lighted baseball fields and three unlighted fields around town that are used for practice. On any given Saturday afternoon, more than 800 spectators cheer on their teams at the Sportsplex and the Baseball Complex, according to the recreation department.

Admission this year is $1, and free for children age 6 and under. Ball players in uniform get in free of charge. Vending contracts are bid out each year and supply hotdogs, burgers, sodas, water, popcorn and candies.