COLUMBIA CITY — There are some big changes coming this season for the Columbia City park department’s summer baseball/softball program.
The summer program has developed a partnership with high school baseball and softball coaches, much as they have done with its JFL program.
With that partnership comes some changes.
The biggest change is the development of baseball and softball boards to oversee the operation of both programs. Each league will also have a representative.
Zac Bireley, who is the head baseball coach at CCHS, and Dan Weigold, who is the high school’s JV softball coach, lead their respective boards. Bireley also works at the parks department and Weigold has been involved with the parks programs for several years.
Both Bireley and Weigold are quick to point out that parks program coordinator Melinda Wheeler, who handled every aspect of the program last year, did a “fantastic” job, but also agreed that it wasn’t fair to put one person in charge of everything.
The development of boards will address that issue, both men said.
The baseball and softball programs will be two separate programs, with a seven-person board overseeing each program. Board members will be at the park each night that games are played to answer questions, help out in any capacity and mediate disputes. All decision-making will be made by the board.
While the board is overseeing the operation, the goal of the program is to teach fundamentals and instill a love of the game.
“We’re trying to implement our philosophies down to the little league level,” Bireley said. “We’re setting goals for each league level.”
One of those philosophies is recognizing that softball and baseball are two different sports. As such, girls and boys will have their own T-ball and lob ball leagues instead of co-ed teams has they’ve had in the past.
“There’s no reason seven- or eight-year-old kids can’t learn the game,” Bireley said.
An instructional league for four-year-olds has also been created. The league, which meets once or twice a week is meant to introduce the littlest players to the basics of the game, running, catching and hitting.
Building on those fundamentals through each league is the ultimate goal of the program.
Along with teaching fundamentals, the board wants to instill some discipline and structure to the program, and, at the same time, wants to reverse some of the negativity that has crept into the summer program and create cooperation between players, parents, coaches and leagues.
“We’ll be focusing on positives, all the positives, and understanding that failures happen,” Weigold said. “Some of the things I’ve seen happen down there in the past won’t be tolerated anymore.“
“We want the same thing the parents do,” Bireley added. “We want to see the kids play and develop.”
“We’re bringing back baseball and softball like it should be,” Weigold said.
Parents who have questions or concerns about the upcoming season or the changes to the program should contact their league representative. A list of league representatives and contact information can be found at columbiacityparks.us.