Area youth baseball leagues looking for players

Published 12:13 am Thursday, March 26, 2009

NATCHEZ — Joe Eidt has been helping run the Natchez Dixie Youth baseball league for 20 years, and he has never seen the league put into a situation like it has this year.

Due to low registration, Natchez Dixie Youth has extended its registration deadline by a week.

The new deadline is this Saturday. Interested children ages 5-12 can sign up at Sports Center. The registration fee is $75.

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Eidt said the league had 305 kids last year, but only about 230 have signed up so far.

“We always have late registers, but we’ve never had numbers this low,” Eidt said. “I attribute it to the economy as much as anything else. It’s a fact we’re dealing with, and people have to make a decision on something.”

T.M. Jennings Little League President Eric Fry also is concerned about the economy affecting the registration for his league, which is why he kept his registration fee at $35 instead of raising the fee like he had originally planned.

“One of the reason I kept the prices down is to try and get as many people (registered),” Fry said. “There are a lot of people that are going through (economic) difficulties. I was going to raise the fees but with the economy the way it is, I decided to keep it the same. It’s all about giving these kids something to do in the summer.”

Fry said T.M. Jennings’ first day of registration went well and he is expecting a good turnout Saturday at Martin Gym for the second registration day.

“Last year we had 189 kids and 13 teams,” Fry said. “We are hoping for that to stay the same this year.”

Across the river in Vidalia, two youth baseball leagues have combined to combat the lower numbers this year.

Concordia Parish Recreation Director Mike Bowlin said due to low turnout in the Ferriday league, Ferriday and Vidalia have combined leagues and will play most of their games in Vidalia, with a few in Ferriday.

“Ferriday had a problem getting kids, so we merged with them,” Bowlin said. “We’ve now got over 300 kids and 32 teams.”

Bowlin said that while the economy was a factor in the lower registration, he thinks the emergence of travel teams have also hurt youth leagues.

“I really think what is hurting the leagues is all the tournament baseball going on,” Bowlin said. “There are a lot of kids that aren’t playing league ball, they’re just playing tournament ball. We’ve seen a decline (in league registration) over the years.”

But whatever the reason, Eidt is hoping that parents will see the benefit of youth baseball and sign their children up to play.

“I think it teaches good life lessons of sportsmanship, teamwork, commitment, having pride in yourself and being a part of something,” Eidt said. “It’s the lessons that are learned that you build on as you grow up. I feel like (youth) baseball is very important to the wellbeing of any participant.”