Local leagues hope for full seasons
By Michael Butler
Last year was quite different for area youth on the baseball and softball fields. As the calendar flips to 2021, there is optimism for seasons to continue as they have in previous years.
Starting with the youngest players, seasons were canceled competely for tee-ballers who signed up last year.
Plans are to return to the diamonds this season. The new Dixie Prep League was slated to begin in 2020, so this will be its inaugural season.
Tallassee Recreation Department programs director Courtney Thornton is ready to play ball in '21.
"After speaking to the coaches and parents," Thornton said, "the future for the Dixie Prep program looks very bright. This will be one of the many feeder programs we hope to establish here in Tallassee."
Those age four may start playing tee ball through the recreation department. Dixie Prep will be a hybrid for the older kids preparing for Dixie Youth, which is available for those 7-12.
"I hope the community supports the rec department as they try something new," Tallassee Dixie Youth Baseball commissioner Abe Rigsby said. "I think it will be a great thing for DYB as kids will be more prepared as they learn more about the rules of the game, which will make it easier on the coaches in 7/8 when those kids are ready to move up to that age group."
Last year, Rigsby and the DYB board dealt with a stoppage to the season before regular season games started. While other leagues canceled seasons, Tallassee put a schedule together.
"Even though 2020 caused a lot of uncertainty and presented come challenges, the 2020 season was very successful and I am thankful that the board, parents and kids stuck with our league and allowed a season to happen. It had its challenges, but once we kicked it off after the shutdown it was one of the most enjoyable seasons that I have had in my eight years of being associated with Dixie Youth Baseball. It presented a more laid-back atmosphere for the kids and I think they were glad to be able to finally play.
"As a board we decided to plan the 2021 season as normal assuming there would be no interruptions. If there are reasons that we should not safely start the season as planned we will be patient just like we were last year to begin the season once it is safe to do so."
Tallassee's youth softball season did cancel in the spring in 2020 but offered an alternative for players in the fall.
"Canceling the spring season was one of the hardest decisions to make," commissioner Jaiton Stephens noted, "but fortunately we were able to have a fall season. This year we pushed back registration and the opening date as long as we could in hopes of knowing if there will be a lockdown or not. Hopefully we will be able to have a spring and fall season this year.
"(2020) started smoothly until the COVID protocols hit and that changed everything. We tried our best to make it work, but with the leagues around us shutting down and the low numbers of returning players we had no choice but to to the same. After working with the rec department and board we figured out a way to give back to those that wanted to play. The fall league was a great success. I had several parents reach out and tell me how much their daughters enjoyed it. It not only benefited Tallassee girls, but we had several from the surrounding area which was awesome to have them join us."
The girls program has had different affiliations in the past. The group is making another change this year.
"We left Dixie and went USSSA last season mainly to benefit the older age group of ladies," Stephens said. "It is a better program with rules very similar to ASA. This year we will be moving to USA with the leagues around us which is even more beneficial for us due to an already established relationship for hosting tournaments on the travel ball side of softball. Hopefully we can get some rec league tournaments as well."
Tee Ball/Dixie Prep: Age groups (4-6). * Must be 4 by time T-Ball begins. Feb. 24 - March 6 at the Tallassee Recreation Department for boys and girls. Fee will be $45 per child and tentative date to begin will be April 11. Games will be played on Saturday mornings at Dixie Youth fields. Fee includes shirt and hat.
Dixie Youth: Age groups (7/8, 9/10, 11/12). Online through Jan. 30. In-person signups at DYB concession stand on Jan. 30 from 12 - 2 p.m. Required evaluations will be on Feb. 6 and 13 at 2 p.m. Fee is $125 per player and $100 per additional sibling.
USA Softball: Age groups (5-14). In- person registration will be Feb. 19 and 20. Registration will also be offered online. The link for the online registration and details for the in-person registration will be posted soon.