CRESTVIEW — Melvin “Catfish” Hill’s face lights up when he talks about youth baseball. All one has to do is spend five minutes with Hill to realize his passion is teaching young people the game he loves.
This year, Hill, the Crestview Little League’s president, has even more to be excited about. For the first time in more than a decade, Little League baseball will be offered in Crestview. Games will take place at Garden City Park.
Registration for Crestview’s Little League runs 6-7 p.m. through the end of the month on Tuesday and Thursday at the Garden City Little League Park, 3660 Garden City Road.
Registration also is available at www.eteamz/cllgardencity.com.
The league’s $50 per child membership cost includes a cap, shirt, socks and all equipment except for a glove and insurance.
To many people, Little League is to youth baseball as Xerox is to copy machines or Kleenex to tissue paper.
But just as Xerox and Kleenex are registered brands with a trademark, so too is Little League baseball.
Hill had no problems with the Crestview Parks and Recreation Department’s programs, but he wanted to give local kids a chance to participate in the best known youth baseball program in the world.
“Bringing Little League back to Crestview is about letting kids live the dream of being able to play on the ESPN networks that you see (on television) every summer,” Hill said. “Little League is a community deal. Everything is an unpaid position.
“There are volunteer umpires, board members and coaches. It’s more of everything is a hands-on deal. That’s why we want to bring it back to the community and give the kids the opportunity to do what they see on TV. Little League provides them the opportunity to play in the World Series and live the Williamsport (Pa.) dream that every kid has.”
Odds of making it to Williamsport are slim, Hill admits, but he sees Little League as a great motivator.
“It’s not so much a pipe dream as it is something that drives the kids to another level,” he said. “If we can succeed, we will get national exposure because that’s the avenue where Little League will take you.”
The league is open to boys and girls ages 4-16. The 4-6 age group is coed tee ball and the other age groups are split into fast pitch softball for girls and baseball for boys.
The Crestview Little League is part of Florida’s District 1 that includes leagues in Niceville, Shalimar, Destin and DeFuniak Springs.
There will be some changes in the rules for the 11- to 12-year-old intermediate league this year, which is the one most people associate with Little League baseball.
For the first time since Little League started, the boys will play with the more advanced rules that allow base runners to lead off as opposed to having to stay on base until the ball crosses home plate.
Along with the lead offs, pitchers may attempt to pick off moves on base runners.
“At 11 and 12, most of the kids now are in the sixth and seventh grade and playing middle school ball, and they are learning that part of the game," Hill said. “All of the leagues now are teaching that part of the game for that age group.
“There is no setting now where the kid won’t know what leading off is or what a balk is.”
Plans are to have evaluations and the draft the first two Saturdays in February and to start league play March 9, Hill said.
Hill hopes to have four teams per age group, but if there aren’t so many teams, the league will fill out the schedule by playing Little League teams from within District 1.
He is still looking for anyone interested in volunteering to help make the league a success.
“We will always take volunteers,” he said. “Just let me know what you want to volunteer for and I’ll send you the form.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524