Story last updated at 4:39 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2002

Youth leagues see busy summer season
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

Get Dr. Bill Bell started on the virtues of youth baseball and he'll tell you it teaches kids valuable lessons, not just about sport but about life.

With 310 boys and girls between the age 5 and 14 playing Little League hardball or softball in Homer this summer, the life lessons of the diamond are abounding. A full schedule of games is under way at the Karen Hornaday fields.

Whether it's T-ball, fast-pitch softball or hardball, the opportunity to play ball verges on a constitutional right, even in Alaska. District rules mandate that all kids who come out make the team, and furthermore, that all kids get playing time.

For Bell, who is information director, webmaster and umpire chief for Homer's Little League, the egalitarian nature of Alaska youth baseball is its greatest virtue.

"Every game has its moments of brilliance," he said. "I like the fact that often comes from the kids you least expect it from."

The Homer Little Leagues will hold their annual mid-summer extravaganza, known as the Tournament of Champions, on July 23.

The older kids meanwhile, take to the field for the ultra-competitive American Legion baseball season. The demanding American Legion schedule will take Homer Post 16 on a multi-city road trip, beginning this week. The trip features eight games in eight days and culminates with the Midnight Sun Tournament in Fairbanks.

The Post 16 Mariners opened their season by splitting a doubleheader with Kenai, beating the Kardinals 5-4 in 10 innings in the first game before dropping a seven inning contest 13-4.

"We've shown we can compete with Kenai," Post 16 coach Lary Kuhns said. "No question about it, Homer baseball is up and coming as far as Legion goes."