Town shows its love for baseball |

Town shows its love for baseball

Column by Steve Yingling

Baseball isn’t dead in this town.

Even though Little League numbers have declined the past couple of years, children and their parents continue to embrace the sport despite barriers impervious to other communities.

The South Shore expressed its affection for baseball on Saturday at the MVP School of Baseball Coaches Clinic as Mother Nature finished wringing out the final few inches of one of the most substantial snowstorms of the season.

More than 40 area Little League coaches resisted the temptation to stay home by a roaring fire and turned out at Saint Theresa Church to listen to former big-leaguers Clint Brill and Don Carrithers give them pointers.

After a two-hour morning session for the coaches, Brill and Carrithers were unexpectedly confronted with a 150-player turnout for an afternoon clinic catering to children.

This unbridled enthusiasm for baseball came on one of the best and final powder days the local ski resorts could offer. If the ski resorts were disappointed in their child count Saturday, they couldn’t blame the weather.

“I know Clint kept looking around and saying, ‘You brought the kids this year,’ ” said Jerry Weldy, a second-year South Tahoe Little League president. “That turnout was very unexpected. Our coaches really got the word out. It was a great thing.”

In past years, Brill, a former catcher for the Atlanta Braves, has been hampered by unfavorable baseball weather following him in from Sacramento. The spring snow he brings has become an ongoing joke with Little League and regularly forces the clinic indoors. The indoor clinic has kept numbers down in the past, but children sure had the baseball bug on Saturday.

“It was a zoo, but you know what? Clint wouldn’t leave,” Weldy said. “Don kept saying, ‘We’re going,’ and there would be one more kid to help and he kept shaking hands. I thought that was really cool.”

With Carrithers, a Giant reliever from 1970-73, doling out his pitching expertise and Brill providing insights into hitting, Tahoe baseball is better off today than it was last week at this time.

“Nine of the 12 big-league hitters I saw step in the box were slightly pigeon- toed,” Brill recalled. “Even since I noticed that, I’ve walked pigeon-toed.”

Carrithers, who also pitched for the Expos and Twins, recounted the story of his first big-league hit. The hit was memorable one because it came off the great Bob Gibson. Unfortunately for Carrithers, he only has memories of the feat. He didn’t have the nerve to ask Gibson for the ball after the Hall of Famer picked up the bleeder and tossed it down the right-field line.

Who knows, Brill and Carrithers may have provided the impetus Saturday to give the town a future big-leaguer.

Obviously, Little League is doing its part to keep children involved in baseball.

The league absorbed the cost of the clinic, which was free to the coaches and children. And for the first time, 5-year-olds are welcome to play T-ball when the season opens April 27.

“Registration has gone up 10 percent over last year,” Weldy said. “I think the 5-year-olds coming in has revitalized it.”

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