The Manchester Youth Baseball League has already begun to hold clinics and tryouts and this year there are a lot of new and exciting things on tap. For starters, Manchester will be hosting the 10U Cal Ripken Tournament for Division III on July 5-7.
"This would be our region's turn to host the state tournament. We've won it the last two years, but never hosted it those years. We've hosted it before, but not recently," said Darrin Senecal, president of Manchester Youth Baseball. "I think they hosted the 12Us two years ago.
While hosting the Cal Ripken Tournament may be the big news, there are several other things happening with the league this year as well.
One is the upgrade to their facilities, which Senecal hopes will be completed by opening day on April 27. Instead of natural grass, astroturf from the former Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas - where the Dallas Cowboys used to play - will be put down.
"We put the concrete foundations in early in the fall," said Senecal.
"I think from there we started talking about 'Hey what are we going to do with this?' and I think I mentioned to somebody that I know somebody who's got some astroturf and I made a call and he said he'd donate it.
Pete Cottrell - last year's president of Manchester Youth Baseball and this year's secretary - was the one who obtained the astroturf, which Senecal said he believed came from Jack Appelman.
There are also two new offerings this year from the Manchester Youth Baseball League. Unlike in years past when kids would age out of the program after the age of 12, this year there will be a traveling 13U team that will compete in the Empire State Baseball League The team, Senecal said, will provide a niche for those kids transitioning from little league to Babe Ruth.
Manchester Youth Baseball is currently looking for kids from surrounding towns interested in playing, but Senecal said that finding enough players could be problematic as there will likely be a lot of double headers on Sundays as the team is unlikely to many home games on Wednesdays.
"It may be problematic, but what are you going to do?" Senecal said. "I mean there isn't another 13U Vermont team. We can't go to Rutland and do it. We can't go to Bennington; it's just not there. So, the Empire League was really the closest outlet they could use."
Tryouts for the 13U team will take place this weekend - March 23 and 24 - from 9:30 a.m. until 12 p.m. at Riley Rink.
The other new program being offered by the Manchester Youth Baseball League this year is softball for girls from nine- to 12-years-old - the clinic for which was held last weekend at Riley Rink.
"There is no girls softball team, league for ages nine to 12," said Senecal. "So, we lose a lot of good female players because they just get sick of that program. Usually they leave us by 10. The boys start getting bigger, they start throwing faster and that's usually when we lose them. We don't want to lose them, they're our players."
Adding two new programs in a year may sound like a lot, but Senecal wants to go beyond the 13U team and softball teams.
"I'd like to do a wooden bat league starting after our regular season is over," said Senecal. "Get back to the original crack of the bat. Everything now is aluminum bats. You see it in the College World Series. I'd like to see us, just for fun, if there's any interest in starting a wooden bat league after the regular season and after all the all-star stuff goes away."
If such a league were to be created. Senecal expected that they would play from July until sometime in August or September.
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