By Debby Schamber
The Orange Leader
The crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd will soon be heard by people eager to hear those famous words, “play ball.”
“Opening day is in late February for softball and March 29 for baseball,” said Mike Coffey, Orange Youth League president.
Sign-up for Orange Youth Softball is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 5 and 12, at the ball park field house off I-10. Sign-ups will continue 9 a.m. to noon on Jan 19. Fees are $45 to $80 depending on the age group. Boys and girls ages 4-14 are eligible to play baseball or softball.
“Some of the younger girls have played baseball instead of softball in the past,” Coffey said. “It is up to the parents but about 98 percent play softball.”
Instead of going up on registration fees this year, league officials have opted for a fundraiser.
“In addition to the candy sales, there will be a raffle with a prize of a 4-wheeler,” Coffey said.
Last year about 1,000 players signed up to play ball. League officials are hoping for the same turn-out. They are also accepting applications for coaches.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” Coffey said.
League officials with baseball fever have been working hard and getting the grounds ready.
Once again, the baseball park was damaged by a hurricane. In 2005 when Hurricane Rita blew through Southeast Texas, the league had to purchase five new buildings. The dugouts, which are made of cinderblocks, collapsed and the score shacks were heavily damaged. In addition, the covers over the bleachers had to be replaced or repaired and light poles had to be repaired since many of them were leaning or had fallen over.
When Hurricane Humberto came to town in September, once again the light poles were damaged, in addition to a softball dugout being destroyed.
When the season starts people come to the ball park to watch a game whether they have a child playing or not, Coffey said.
“Older people who came when they had children playing still bring a lawn chair and watch the games,” Coffey explained.
But baseball is not only for adults who love the game. Coffey said it can be a fun, learning experience for everyone involved.
“The kids learn a lot when they play baseball — they learn how to be part of a team and sportsmanship.” he said.
Some players have aspirations of bigger and better fields. Players that once had those “field of dreams” at OYBS include John Patterson who now plays for the Washington Nationals. Bo Hale plays for the AAA Baltimore Orioles team and was voted “Comeback Player of the Year.” Tyler Reeves went on after his start at OYBS to play for the Chicago White Sox.
The league is currently looking for places to practice, such as empty lots at schools or churches.
“All players are insured by the league in case of accidents,” Coffey said.
For additional information or sign-up applications, contact Mike Coffey at 882-9567 or Trey Best at 697-3290.
Reach this reporter at 409-883-3571, Ext. 2613, or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Debby Schamber
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