Archive for Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Having a blast

TRC’s new blastball league a big hit with youths

Kendall Smith hits a foam baseball off a tee during a Tonganoxie Recreation Commission blastball game at Leavenworth County Fairgrounds in July. Blastball, which is designed to introduce 4-year-olds to some baseball basics, was a successful first-year offering from TRC this summer, with four seven-player teams participating.

Kendall Smith hits a foam baseball off a tee during a Tonganoxie Recreation Commission blastball game at Leavenworth County Fairgrounds in July. Blastball, which is designed to introduce 4-year-olds to some baseball basics, was a successful first-year offering from TRC this summer, with four seven-player teams participating.

August 10, 2010

Basics of Blastball

• An introductory T-ball game for boys and girls, age 4

• Blastbase — which makes a horn noise when players jump on it — at first is the only base; batting tee at home plate

• Foam balls and bats — no need for gloves or batting helmets

• Batters can swing until ball is hit in fair territory

• Batter runs to the base, trying to get there before ball is fielded

• Base runners return to the bench, no call of safe or out

• All players bat before sides change

• No score kept

• Seven spots for defensive players and each player gets the opportunity to play every defensive position

A new brand of baseball was played this summer at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds. And the trailblazers on the diamond weren’t even old enough to enroll in kindergarten.

Blastball, an introductory T-ball game for 4-year-old boys and girls, was offered for the first time this year by the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission and local families responded as spots on the league’s four seven-player teams completely filled up.

Simplified to allow greater enjoyment for the short attention spans of youngsters, blastball is designed to introduce children to some of the rudimentary basics of baseball. There is only one base on the field — first, which is equipped with a horn that sounds when a player reaches the base and jumps on it — and neither strikes, outs nor runs are part of the equation. Each batter is allowed to swing until she or he hits the ball into fair territory and then the batter tries to reach base before the ball is fielded by one of the seven defenders covering the infield. After everyone bats once, the teams switch sides and it’s on to the next half-inning. And to avoid too much playing in the dirt (although it will happen from time to time) games never last more than 40 minutes.

Basically, youths learn a little about hitting, fielding and throwing — the defensive player who fields a hit throws it back home for a coach to place on the tee for the next batter — in a safe environment thanks to the use of a foam bat and ball. No gloves or helmets are required.

Kim Edwards, coach of Team No. 4, said it didn’t take the players long to get used to the game — they only had one practice before the season began — and Team No. 2 coach Steven Adcox said no one was afraid of the ball or any other part of blastball.

“Actually right off the bat, all the kids chased the ball and were real into it,” Adcox said.

The new TRC program, he added, was a perfect introduction for the players.

“I thought it was great for the kids to start off with the bat and just get the feel for the game,” Adcox said. “It was a lot of fun for them.”

Edwards agreed and said the part players seemed to enjoy most was jumping as hard as they could onto first base — the blastbase — as they tried to extract the loudest sound possible. Adcox said the blastbase was a good tool to teach the players how to run after hitting the ball.

“It gives the kids a little more incentive to run to the base with it making a noise like that and stomping on it,” he said.

The excitement level remained high, Edwards said, even though there were two games a week in June and the first week of July.

“I think it was just something different,” she said. “They enjoyed playing with each other.”

While lined up in the infield on defense, chasing the ball was fun for the players, too. As the ball bounced and rolled one direction or another, occasionally all the players would wind up in a dog pile trying to make sure the ball was secured. But as 4-year-olds, they sometimes got angry when one of their teammates beat them to the play and got to pick up the ball and throw it back to home plate.

“That’s part of learning,” Adcox said.

Getting the hang of all the basics, including sportsmanship, really was the point of the new league to begin with. Edwards said blastball accomplished that for its inaugural group of players.

“It’s more of an individual game, ways to improve individually, and it does prepare them for T-ball in the future,” she said.

The TRC league’s coaches said they would recommend the game to other parents. Adcox said he witnessed improved hitting and fielding as the season went on.

“Gradually, every one of them advanced as we played the games,” he said.

But the most important part of the game, rec commission organizers and coaches stressed, was for the blastball players to have fun. And they did.

As Adcox appropriately put it: “The kids had a blast.”

TRC Blastball participants

Team 1

Players: Madison Kirby, Breeanna Lang, Scott Murray, Tenley Rude, Kendall Smith, Jacob Tuter and Ethan Weber. Coach: Trisha Murray.

Team 2

Players: Robyn Adcox, Brady Auten, Ian Darlington, Alyssa Logan, Brayden McCann, Bethany Overmiller and Kyle Turner. Coach: Steven Adcox.

Team 3

Players: Kasia Baldock, Logan Breuer, Brendon Briley, Katelyn Dunn, Kolby Gehl, Joel Moraille and Camrie Niemeyer. Coach: Meghann Gehl.

Team 4

Players: Lachlan Bond, Garrett Edwards, Caroline Keene, Jacoby Keller, Lilly Rausch, Molly Rausch and Justin Shoemaker. Coach: Kim Edwards.

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