Baseball, softball Opening Day Saturday at Sportsplex

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 4, 2002

Sports Editor

Scattered throughout the center of the Troy Parks and Recreation Department’s main office are bundles of colorful uniforms and stacks of baseball caps, which coaches come by and collect for their individual youth league teams.

The uniforms are fresh and bright, small and large, crisp in color. They await eager young hands, 850 players total, intent on getting those clothes stained with red dirt and perspiration. It may come from stealing second, sliding home or sweating nervous bullets at the plate, but come rec league season most mother’s make sure they grab extra detergent at the grocery store.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Ladies, stock up in a hurry, because Opening Day is this Saturday.

Entering his fifth year as the TPRD’s Youth Sports Director, Vaughn Daniels says the job has become easier, but preparations for summer baseball and softball still require the same amount of work it always has.

"This close to Opening Day, it’s just a matter of dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s and making sure you have all of your coaches and they have all of what they need," he said. "It’s the coaches I really want to thank, because they’re volunteering their service for these kids."

If one figures three coaches per team, 63 total squads, then 189 men and women will also take the fields this weekend at the Troy Sports Plex.

That’s over 1,000 people for Daniels and the TPRD staff to get situated for the 9 a.m. walk out.

"This is a huge undertaking, but we do it as a group, so that makes it a little easier," he said.

In fact, Daniels regrets he won’t have more coaches and players on the two fields to coordinate on Saturday. Numbers have been in a steady decline since the recreation department hit its highest totals in 1996 and 1997. More then 1,000 youngsters participated in both baseball and softball in each of those two seasons.

Outside interests have taken children away from the two sports, but Daniels said this isn’t just Troy’s problem.

"It’s all around us," he said. "It’s happening in Dothan and Enterprise. It could be a matter of not having played sandlot ball or kids just telling parents they don’t want to play this year."

Softball is hurting the most. The largest softball league is the six and seven-year-old Sweetees with five teams total. The Darlings have just eight and the Ponytails and Angels, four each.

Still, Daniels feels that Troy, in high school and recreation ball, will be strong for some years to come.

"Troy will always be a good baseball and softball town," he said. "We’ve got some players coming up that could be dominant players by the time they reach high school and perhaps on into college."

Daniels also expressed there will be zero tolerance this season for parents who heckle or otherwise intimidate umpires while attending the games.

"Whether it comes from a coach, parent or fan, we’re taking a stand of zero tolerance," Daniels said. "We’re trying to set an example for these kids and have a family-type of environment. Although the umpires do get paid, they are still doing a service to the community and many of them are just out of high school and learning. We don’t want to expose them to abuse such as that."

Daniels said coaches should have their players on the field by 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.