School is out and area youngsters are looking for activities to enjoy during these long summer days. Little League offers that and then some.
Take Mose Hayes, 12, and Annalynn Brown, 11. Involvement in Little League feeds a passion for these young athletes that they plan to follow in the future.
Mose’s interest in baseball began when he was a toddler.
“I started Little League when I was like 4 or 5, but I was playing before that,” he said. “My mom and dad both helped me with playing catch and wiffle ball and stuff like that.”
Last year Mose and his friend Teagan Carlson made it all the way from Homer’s Karen Hornaday Park ball fields to an all-star team.
“That was the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball,” said Mose, of the two friends making a Kenai Peninsula team. “There were tryouts in Soldotna, and we went to Anchorage and practiced on a field there for a couple of weeks and played against other teams from the state.”
Their team placed second in the state, with the first-place team advancing to play in the Lower 48.
“We were really close,” said Mose of the opportunity to travel outside Alaska. “It was a lot of fun.”
This summer, Teagan is focused on other activities, while Mose has continued playing baseball. He plays for the Giants, a Little League “Majors” division team of 11- and 12-year-olds.
“We play two or three times a week and practice every day we can, basically,” said Mose. He plays a number of positions, but his favorite spots are shortstop and pitcher.
Asked for plays that stand out, Mose had only to go as far back as Saturday’s second of two games against Kenai to find an answer.
“It was probably when I struck those three first batters out,” he said. “That was fun and exciting.”
Baseball isn’t his only interest. For the past six years, Mose has studied karate with Martie Krohn and piano with Carol Comfort.
“But baseball is my favorite,” he said.
He credits his parents, Mike Hayes and Dana Roberts, with teaching him the most about the game. With his younger brother, Zavier, 8, also playing baseball, family coaching continues.
Among his baseball heroes, Mose listed Anthony Rizzo, first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, as well as the Chicago Cubs team, “even though they’re not that good,” he said.
Mose also enjoys baseball movies, such as “Million Dollar Arm,” currently playing at the Homer Theatre. The film is based on a true story and, among others, stars Bill Paxton as pitching coach Tom House. Mose’s dad, a strong advocate for baseball in the Homer area, once took a course from House in order to become certified as a pitching instructor.
“That was probably one of my favorite things I did,” said Hayes, adding that he sees baseball as “one of the most difficult sports to teach kids, but any team sport you have like that teaches them a lot of life lessons.”
Does Mose intend to continue playing baseball in the future?
“Oh yeah,” he said.
Annalynn Brown began playing softball in the backyard with her parents, Roark and Deborah Brown, when she was about five or six. After-school programs built upon what she learned at home.
This year, Annalynn plays on the “Nationals,” a Little League Majors team of 9- to 12-year-old girls. Annalynn’s favorite positions to play are shortstop and pitcher. She also enjoys “hitting a really good ball and it flies way out there.” The Majors are divided into two teams and practice on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Currently, Annalynn is perfecting her switch-hitting, motivated by her younger, baseball-playing, left-handed brother, Ashton, 9. She also is working on her pitching.
“One older girl was telling us about pitching and she could get the ball up to 60 miles per hour or something like that, really, really fast,” said Annalynn, who has yet to measure the speed of her pitch.
Playing ball is only one of Annalynn’s interests. She’s studied piano since she was 5; at 8, she was introduced to acting and performed in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at Pier One Theatre. Annalynn has performed seven times in the local production of “The Nutcracker.” In March, she began exploring gymnastics and she currently is attending the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.
Of softball, she said, “I like having teams, not just depending on yourself, but having other teammates that can help you. And I like pitching, when I can pitch someone out, or when they hit the ball and they get out at first base. That’s fun.”
Personal drive is Deborah Brown’s explanation of her daughter’s softball-playing ability.
“(Annalynn) is doing all this because she loves it. On her own, she’s formulating her own goals,” said Brown.
Softball definitely factors into the 11-year-old’s plans for the future.
“I want to keep playing,” said Annalynn.