Opening day almost here

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 31, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

The Major league opener is already old news, but that one special night has yet to occur for young players in Selma.

Thursday, April 10, thousands of players, parents and coaches will again converge upon Memorial Stadium to celebrate the beginning of youth baseball and softball – something that annually becomes a focal point of the city’s summer.

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The biggest change this year is the abolition of coach pitching in 9-10 year-old baseball after more than 25 years.

“I would go watch teams play back then, and pitchers would strike out 15 or 16 batters. But they would also walk 15 or 16 batters,” said Elton Reece, director of Parks and Recreation. “I did a little research, and experts wish they didn’t pitch until 13 and 14.”

Reece said the new format was used on a trial basis during a six-week fall league with “fair” results. The safety of the players will still be emphasized, and coach pitching could be re-implemented if this season is deemed unsuccessful.

Lengthy games became a problem before the city discontinued the practice following the 1981 season. That issue will be fought with a time limit and a rule that allows coaches to take over if a pitcher walks more than four batters in an inning.

Ideally, players will become more familiar with the game’s fundamentals and catchers will develop better.

Fastpitch softball is also a continuing issue since the city began the program during the summer a few years ago.

“It’s held steady in the 9-11 and 12-14 age groups,” said baseball and softball coordinator Tracy Williams. “There’s also going to be a league late in the summer for high school girls (13-18) at the Softball Complex starting the first weekend of May.”

The issue with fastpitch – as is the case with player pitch in youth baseball – is not so much player interest. It is being able to teach it correctly.

“The coaches are going to have to learn something, too,” Williams said. “You’re not only getting the kids adjusted, you have the coaches learning the game earlier.”

Opening ceremonies begin at 7 p.m., and games begin the following day at 6 p.m.