Snacking on slushies and cracking the bat: It’s time for Little League |

Snacking on slushies and cracking the bat: It’s time for Little League

Free slushies. Well, sort of, if you know how to fill a small trash bag. Six and 7-year-olds chasing butterflies instead of baseballs. Minor league players learning that not all games end in ties.

Yes, it’s time for the South Tahoe Little League to open another youth baseball season. Play begins Friday with the rematches of last year’s major and minor league championships – Cubs vs. Reds and A’s vs. Reds – and continues into July with all-star tournaments.

Player numbers for the league are slightly down, but the enthusiasm and volunteer participation is at an all-time high.

“I haven’t seen so many people who have come out and want to do something,” said first-year president Jerry Weldy. “It’s made our jobs a lot easier because we have a lot of support. I had to even turn down some people who wanted to coach because we didn’t have the registration to accommodate them.”

With the player pool dropping from 595 to 550 in 12 months, it’s made player agent Patti Stuck’s job run much smoother. It’s her responsibility to work out trades, discrepancies and discontent among the league’s four divisions: T-ball, farm, minors and majors. As a mother of two, this talent comes naturally.

“I’m real big on fairness,” she said. “To make it fair and fun for the kids, that’s why I got on board.”

Stuck said the biggest development for this season is the youth movement into the majors. In past years, only four to five 10-years-olds were selected to major teams, but 26 will play in the league’s oldest division this spring.

“We’re going to have some very strong teams in a couple of years. It’s a good opportunity for 10-year-olds to get some experience this year,” she said.

Patience and perseverance have delivered new dugouts and a scorer’s shack for the minors.

Players will be selling raffle tickets throughout the season for a June 23 drawing. The grand prize is a trip to Hawaii.

Weldy suggests parents and players make frequent trips over to the snack shack, which is under new management. Fred and Tina Mercado have replaced longtime servers John and Cindy Gerken.

“Everyone should go over and ask them what flavors of slushies they have. I’m sure their old standbys will be there,” Weldy said.

The profits from the shack enable the league to keep their registration fees reasonable.

“The cost is lower the most of the leagues,” said Weldy, citing the $55 early bird rate per player.

Weldy has only one regret as her favorite season approaches.

“If we had known the weather was going to be like this back in December we would have scheduled for an earlier start,” she said. “But if we planned for an early start we would have still had snow on the ground. I’m just glad it was nice because we’ve had the time to get the fields in great shape, and they really needed it.”

The league has decided to dedicate the 2000 season to Doug Van Gordon and Dan and Tasma Wilvers.

With most of the time-consuming season preparation out of the way, Weldy will start looking for precious smiles out on the fields.

“Watching all the kids getting out there and having a good time, that’s what it is all about. If it wasn’t for seeing that, I wouldn’t be doing this,” she said.

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