June 11, 2007

Little League/Youth Baseball

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

Baseball has been shaping young lives ever since its creation in the mid 1800s.

It not only provides children, as well as adults, with exercise and entertainment, it also helps children build all sorts of skills that help shape a child’s life.

The Delano Youth Baseball and Softball Association (DYBSA) is providing Delano’s youth with just that, and more, giving around 800 children a chance to play baseball.

“Delano is a huge baseball community, and the numbers show it,” organizer Jeanne Hanson said.

The DYBSA organizes the teams into age brackets, and has numerous teams all designed to play in a competitive environment.

“We try to accommodate everyone,” Hanson said.

The program was under the umbrella of the Delano Athletic Club, but with the growth of the programs, a need arose for something more specific, which turned out to be the DYSBA.

The DYBSA is in its first official year of existence, and is a non-profit organization working diligently to provide the children the best opportunity to play ball.

“It is the first year it became an official board,” Hanson said.

DYBSA offers both baseball and softball programs for boys and girls starting at the age of five, all the way through age 18.

DYBSA kicks off its teams with a coed program for tee-ball, ages five and six, and nearball, ages seven and eight, with the boys and girls playing together.

“They are combined, and it is co-ed,” Hanson said.

During tee-ball, the children hit off of a tee, and learn the very basics of the game. As for competition, the tee-ballers are broken into a number of teams, and play the other Delano teams Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout June.

“They play each other two nights a week in the month of June,” Hanson said.

The next level of play is a little more advanced with nearball. During this style of play, the coaches pitch to the players, to simulate a pitcher actually pitching, focusing on building better hand-eye coordination.

The nearball teams play on Mondays and Wednesdays, and play other Delano teams.

“We have 120 plus nearball players,” Hanson said.

After nearball, the teams split into their gender-orientated sports – baseball and softball.

The baseball programs offered for the players start at the age of five with tee-ball and go up to the 15- and 16-year-olds.

The program is broken up into age groups, and has a B League, house league, and traveling teams.

The traveling teams are the most competitive teams the baseball program has to offer, and consist of teams at the age levels of 9-10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16.

In order to play for one of the traveling teams, a player must attend an evaluation to make the team.

“The tryouts are in March before spring break,” Hanson said.

The evaluation takes place for each group, and is a one night event, run by Delano’s Head Baseball Coach Dan Paulson, at the Tiger Activity Center.

The process puts the players through numerous stations, where they are evaluated on skills such as arm strength, hitting, fielding, and running.

“Paulson and his school staff do the evaluation process,” Hanson said.

After the evaluations are over, teams are decided upon, and players are put on either the traveling, the B league, or house league team.

“For the traveling teams only 12 kids are allowed on a team,” Hanson said.

The traveling teams, along with the B league teams compete in the MBA (Minnesota Baseball Alliance) league, facing towns such as Becker, Big Lake, Cambridge, Monticello, Princeton, Sauk Rapids, St. Michael, and Zimmerman to name a few.

“We have chosen the MBA at this point,” Hanson said.

The traveling teams play a full schedule, including tournaments, which each team usually participates in two to five a year.

“It is more cost, time, and commitment,” Hanson said.

Delano actually hosted one of these tournaments for the 10-12 leagues June 2 and 3, and it was a state qualifier, bringing in 24 teams from places such as Brainerd, Hermantown, Little Falls, Maple Grove, Orono, and Waconia.

“It was a great turn out, with teams that came from all over,” Hanson said.

Qualifiers are for teams to make the state tournament, which the traveling teams as well as the B teams are a part of.

If the team makes the state tournament and wins, it can move on to a regional tournament, and if it wins, can even move to nationals in places all over the United States.

“Last year, our 11 year old AAA team went to Nationals in New York,” Hanson said.

The 15 and 16 year old traveling teams, known as Mickey Mantle, are chosen a little differently – they are hand-picked by Paulson and his staff. The process doesn’t include tryouts, and the teams are picked as somewhat of a minor league system for the high school baseball program.

“It is a feeder program,” Hanson said.

The B league, which ranges from ages 11 to 16, provides players who did not make the traveling team, or do not have enough time to play the schedule of the traveling team, an opportunity to play baseball.

“They still have to travel, but they don’t play in tournaments, and it is less travel for the parents,” Hanson said.

The teams play a full schedule in the MBA, but they don’t play in tournaments, except for an end-of-the- year state qualifying tournament, with the possibility of moving on.

There are numerous teams at each level, depending on the numbers, and teams are tried to be kept to 12 players, with a limit of 15 to optimize playing time for everyone.

“It changes with numbers,” Hanson said.

The house league is for the 9-10-year-olds. The league is made up of Delano, Loretto, and Rockford, and the schedule revolves around the three towns. There are numerous teams from each town, and it is designed to be less of a time commitment than the traveling league for parents who don’t have as much time to travel longer distances to games.

The softball program the DYBSA offers is similar to the baseball program, having teams from the ages of nine to 18. They play full schedules, have tournaments, and also have the possibility of going to the state tournament if they continue to win.

The program has traveling teams, with evaluations taking place in order to make the team. There are also B teams for the girls, so everyone gets an opportunity to play softball.

With all the time and work these programs need to succeed, it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the volunteers.

“The success of the program is because of the volunteers,” Hanson said.

The volunteers do everything, such as coaching, concessions, equipment, field maintenance, field scheduling, team photos, umpire scheduling, and even the web site.

“More and more volunteers are needed,” Hanson said.

With the growth of the programs, these volunteers are very committed, and do a wonderful job supporting the players to make sure they are having a great experience.

Playing ball is a great experience, and with so many people involved in Delano, it really brings a community together.

For more information, visit www.delanorecreation.com and www.mnmba.com.

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