Spring Baseball League Aiming to Attract 4-Year-Olds


(Sunday, December 24, 2006 5:47 AM EST)

Even preschoolers have dreams of playing in the Major Leagues. And now, they have the opportunity to kick-start their baseball careers once they hit their fourth birthdays.

Saturday Morning Baseball, a new Arlington program starting in April 2007, gives four-year-olds the opportunity to start developing their baseball skills.

“I've heard about it running successfully in other places, and I just think kids are ready for it younger and younger,” said Adam Balutis, president of Arlington Little League. “We've made some adaptations that will make it more accessible to them, and make them love the game sooner.”

The estimated cost to participate is $15 each students, and coordinators are expecting between 60 and 80 participants. In an effort to keep team numbers low, there will be up to 12 teams. Each player will receive an official Saturday Morning Baseball T-shirt to wear for games.

Players will meet Saturdays through the end of the school year for 45-minute games. Equipment will be tailored to their age group, with plastic bats, Velcro mitts and tennis balls.

To promote a more educational and less competitive environment, everyone on the team bats at a tee and runs the 40-foot bases each inning. The last batter of the inning runs all the bases.

“We don't keep score,” said Chris Cooper, vice president of Arlington Little League. “Its more about hand-eye coordination than actually catching balls.”

Although many of the people involved with Saturday Morning Baseball are affiliated with Arlington Little League, the new program is sponsored by the Arlington Wolves Youth Baseball Club, and is a separate entity from Little League.

Arlington Little League coach Alex Filides will be commissioner of the program, and will help the youngsters develop their skills. Parents will be recruited to help coach and take care of the teams, and members of the Arlington Wolves baseball team will also help guide the young players.

“You have to keep their attention span and keep running activities,” Filides said. “They really get more enjoyment out of it that way.”

Parental demand for a baseball program for their younger children has been high (Little League requires players to be at least five years old), and Saturday Morning Baseball coordinators are optimistic about the new venture.

“I'm excited about it, because I know there's a demand for it,” Cooper said. “I think it's going to do well. We know what it takes to be successful.”

For more information on Saturday Morning Baseball, call (703) 863-5161 or see the Web site at www.saturdaymorningbaseball.org.

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