Herald Journal, May 30, 2005
Little League season in full swing
By Aaron Schultz
From New York to California, and everywhere in between, including Minnesota, it is that time of year again.
The time of year I am speaking of is Little League baseball and softball time.
Kids from as young as five years old all the way through junior high take to the little league fields in drones.
In our area, it is not different, as pretty much each and every town has one version or another of little league.
Taking a look at one town’s little league, in particular, you can see what a wide range there is, as far as organizations and levels.
Lester Prairie’s little league has gone through many changes over the past 20 years.
While many in Lester Prairie may not remember it, there was no little league baseball in town in the late 1980s.
The only organized baseball Lester Prairie had for little league-aged kids was summer rec., which was a combination of a variety of activities, with a two-week span of baseball.
In that two-week span, teams might play against Plato and Silver Lake, and that was it.
The rest of the baseball the kids played was on their own in pick-up games.
Fast forwarding 20 years, Lester Prairie now has an elaborate little league with teams from K-ball to Mickey Mantle.
K-ball, which is for the youngest of the young children, as young as five years old, is where the coaches pitch to their team.
This used to be a T-ball league, where the kids would hit off a tee, but not anymore.
Although, if a kid is struggling off the coach, they will pull a tee out for the child to get his/her whacks in.
The next league moves up to third and fourth graders, where they hit off a pitching machine instead of the coach.
This allows the kids to get a repetition of good pitches.
And, of course, if a batted ball hits off the pitching machine the ball is played live, keeping the infield on their toes at all times.
Moving up to fifth and sixth graders, this is the time they begin pitching to their opponents.
From K-ball up to the fifth and sixth grade levels, boys and girls are combined on teams.
Also, Lester Prairie and New Germany are combined in the levels up to sixth grade.
The little league teams continue with the 13- and 14-year-olds, which is where the boys and girls separate to form their own teams.
The boys play in a league known as the Sandy Koufax league.
At 14 is the last little league age group is for girls’ teams. Not because it is not available, but because the participation among the girls at the age group is too low to have a team.
The next, and final, step up for the boys is the 15 and 16 years old age group, which is known as Mickey Mantle.
In Mickey Mantle, the boys move to a regulation baseball field. Through all of the previous levels, the teams competed on a field with shorter bases, and with a closer pitching rubber.
After Mickey Mantle is American Legion Baseball, which is not in the realm of little league, as it is for high school level boys.
As for the leagues the Lester Prairie teams play for, they vary according to age group.
The K-ball teams play in their own league made up of teams from Mayer, New Germany, and Silver Lake.
The third and fourth grade teams, along with the fifth and sixth grade teams, play in the Waconia Community Rec. Leagues.
Then, the Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle teams play in the Central Minnesota Youth League, formally known as the North Minnetonka Baseball Association.
Although, the girls’ team for ages 13- and 14- year old’s also plays in that league, where the name has remained North Minnetonka Fast-Pitch.
For results and other information on either the North Minnetonka Fast Pitch league, or the Central Minnesota Baseball Youth League go, to www.herald-journal.com/rec.
When it is said and done, the toughest part of little league ball might be determining rosters for each team.
How Lester Prairie does it, and many others as well, is they have the coaches in each age group separate the kids into teams as even as possible.
This can be quite contentious for many parents, and kids, as many want their child to be on the “best” team, or a team with his/her friend.
But by separating the teams as equally as possible by skill level, it allows all the kids a chance to succeed, instead of maybe just half the group.
However, in the end no method is going to make everyone happy.
The little league in Lester Prairie is run by a committee made up of five people: Lisa Feltmann (in charge of registration), Amy Betcher (treasurer), John Lange (in charge of softball), and Troy Feltmann and Larry Roth (in charge of baseball).
Anyone looking for any information on Lester Prairie little league, or with questions or comments may contact Troy or Lisa Feltmann at (320) 395-4162.
Montrose has little league teams in three different age groups for the kids.
They start out in T-Ball, and move up to nine- and 10- year olds, where the league is called the National League.
The final league Montrose has is for 11-, and 12-year olds, and 13-year olds who are allowed to play, but not pitch, which is called the American League.
All of the Montrose teams play in the Buffalo league, with T-Ball and the National League teams playing co-ed.
The American League is for boys only, with the Montrose team being called the Mustangs.
The Mustangs received a very nice donation from Donahue Sports in Delano, Landin Homes in Montrose, and Super America in Buffalo so that they could get new uniforms this year.
Howard Lake & Waverly
Howard Lake and Waverly have traveling baseball and softball leagues, but what we are going to focus on here is their summer rec program.
The two towns each have a day program, which combines to give nearly 300 kids a summer chance to learn some ball skills, as well as do some other things.
Separate from the school, the summer rec program is sponsored by the cities, townships, Waverly Booster Club, and the fees charged to participate, which are not much.
It costs just $20 per child for the program, which runs from June 13 to the last week in July.
Anybody interested in signing up should either call Dale Decker, or contact the Howard Lake or Waverly City Offices.
The program is for kindergartners through sixth graders, and is more than just baseball or softball.
There are times for open gym, a trip to a Twins’ game, to Valleyfair, and many other activities for the children that may not be as interested in baseball/softball as others.
Chad Gagnon heads up the Waverly program, while Cullen Schultz heads the Howard Lake program.
There are also games and practice for baseball and softball, with Howard Lake having four baseball teams, and three softball teams.
All the teams play eight games over the summer, mostly against Waverly, but also against Winsted and Maple Lake.
Winsted has nine total little league teams this year, the lowest number in about 10 years.
The age groups start with seven and eight year olds, which has three teams mixed with boys and girls.
The next age group is nine and 10 year olds, with two boy teams, and one girls team, then there is one girl and one boy team in the 11 and 12 year olds division.
The final team is made up of 13 and 14 year olds, and is a boys team.
The seven and eight year olds play in house, with the coaches doing the pitching.
The nine and 10 year olds play in the Waconia league, the same league Lester Prairie is in, where a pitching machine is used.
The 11 and 12 year olds team, along with the 13 and 14 year olds team both play in the Central Minnesota Baseball League, while the 11 and 12 year olds girls’ softball team plays in the North Minnetonka League.
Gary Daigle is the president of Winsted Little League, Melanie Clintsman is the Vice-President, and Joel Guggemos is the Treasurer.
New Germany is combined with Lester Prairie in two age groups, and compete in the Waconia Community Ed. Rec. League.
New Germany also has one team of their own, modified T-Ball.