Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 4:49 PM on Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Little League prepares for May 12 opening day

By Angelina Skowronski
For the Homer News

Even the great Babe Ruth got his start playing ball on the uneven fields in Baltimore.

Soon Homer Little League players will no longer be fielding grounders on dirt and rocks, thanks to the help of some public funding.

Homer Little League has received $50,000 from the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to improve the conditions of the fields, dugouts, fencing and bleachers at Karen Hornaday Park. The League used $10,000 in the fall to revamp the infields.

"Last fall we stripped the infields out. We are building new dugouts and going to put them in this Saturday along with new fencing and gates around the dugout area," said Field Maintenance Coordinator Phil Needham.

An additional $800 from the Homer Foundation Youth Advisory Committee will go toward portable batting cages starting next year, according to League President Mike Hayes.

The hope is to get a high number of registered players so that more are able to benefit from the grants. So far, online registration and registration from the SAFE Kids Fair have brought up the numbers to the best they have been in years, said Hayes.

"We are doing well with registration. We expect to have at least 250 four to fourteen year olds signed up," said Hayes.

Players from Homer, Anchor Point and Ninilchik are divided by age between T-ball, minors and majors baseball, and minors and majors softball.

Cindy Webb organizes the softball program and is excited for the new game schedule this year.

"We don't always get to play the Anchorage teams, but this year we are playing Palmer and Far North Little League from Anchorage," said Webb.

The League prides itself on being one of the most affordable summer programs at $65 per player for the six week schedule. If parents need help paying fees, extra volunteer time can be substituted.

"We don't turn anyone away. We want everyone to have a chance to play and have fun," said Hayes.

Volunteers are always needed to help with every area from field maintenance, coaching, concession sales, score keepers, and umpires.

Hayes said, "It's coming together, but we always need more volunteers."

A large number of volunteers will be needed Saturday for the field work day. Needham and his team have been assembling new dugouts for the fields, all of which will need to be installed on Saturday.

"It would be great to see 50 people there. There is a lot of work to do," said Needham. "When this is all done and finished, between the baseball fields and HoPP (Homer Playground Project), it's going to be one cool park."

This season the League is taking it up a notch by bringing in some outside experiences. Umpire Ron Felton of Ventura, Calif., will be making Homer his new home this summer and with that, umpiring Little League games and teaching clinics.

"We're not going to focus on the scoreboard, we are going to focus on knowing the rules and keeping the game running," said Hayes.

Having good umpires is the key to having good games says Hayes. Felton's outside umpire experience will hopefully bring fresh angles to the Homer League and new beginnings.

Hayes said, "It's really all six weeks of hanging out in the sunshine and having fun."

More information, registration, and volunteer applications are available online at www.homerlittleleague.org. Opening day is next Saturday, May 12, at noon. Volunteers are still needed for the field work day this Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Karen Hornaday Park. Pizza and drinks will be provided.