While many Little League programs in the area are shrinking and being forced to make cutbacks, Hanover Little League is expanding.
In preparation for the 2015 season, Hanover Little League is planning to add two tee ball fields as well as a 13U travel baseball team along with continuing to offer the same services it has since its beginning in the 1970s.
With 70-100 kids in the tee ball program, additional fields have become necessary to relieve the strain on the three fields currently being used for all ages of softball and baseball.
OBSERVER Photo by Jeremy Izzio
Pictured above is the park in downtown Silver Creek where the two proposed tee ball fields would be located. The proposal is for two fields to be located deep in the outfield, closer to the tree line. In the foreground is a 60-foot diamond, which is currently used by Hanover Little League. The proposed diamonds would be 50-foot diamonds used exclusively for tee ball to help alleviate the stress on the three existing fields and help expedite a full day’s worth of games in less time.
"As a board we have been discussing some ways to alleviate some of the stress from the baseball diamonds that we currently have," said Hanover Little League President Caroline Mullen. "We have somewhere between 70 to 100 kids just at the tee ball level (ages 4-7). We have three primary diamonds we use for our entire league. On Saturdays, we have time slots for every age group with games going from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and it puts a lot of stress on everyone."
The proposed fields would be built in the Silver Creek village park and used specifically for tee ball, but could also be used for other recreational activities such as kickball.
The biggest difference with the two proposed diamonds would be the size of the field.
A standard Little League baseball and softball diamond is a 60-foot field, which has the bases spaced 60 feet apart. The proposed tee ball diamonds would be 50-foot fields with the base paths being 50 feet. These shorter distances would be more age-appropriate, especially when accommodating the younger age groups.
"Our thought process is that there is already a 60-foot (between bases) ballpark down in the park in Silver Creek," Mullen said. "We do use that, but one of our board members came up with a suggestion to add at least one more ballpark in that area. We wanted to designate it specifically for tee ball, given the fact that we have so may tee ball teams, anywhere from eight to 12 per year."
Hanover Little League brought the idea of the new fields to the Silver Creek Village Board on Monday, Aug. 4.
The proposal was centered around the idea that the fields would be "temporary", with the backstops able to be moved to accommodate other activities and events in the park such as the Festival of Grapes and the Children's Fair.
All that would be needed to set up the fields would be movable backstops and seating for the players, with the existing pavilion and refrigerators made available for concessions.
"The board is in favor of anything that is going to promote involvement with the kids," said Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo. "So far there is a large number of kids who are interested and eligible for tee ball next year in the Hanover Little League. We feel that because it is tee ball, there won't be a lot of balls hit into the outfield, so it wouldn't interfere with three fields in that area.
"It would also expedite the number of games that could be played at one time and also complete a full day's schedule in a short period of time," Piccolo added. "We feel it is going to be a plus and be a good thing. We need involvement, and it seems like a lot of the leagues in the area (have declining numbers). So it is a positive when the numbers are up in Silver Creek and Forestville. We are willing to do anything we can do to help out with the promotion of sports for the kids."
Another addition that Hanover Little League is planning for 2015 is a 13U travel baseball team.
The travel team would provide a higher level of competition that many players in the league are seeking.
"In our area, a lot of kids live, breathe, eat and sleep baseball," Mullen said. "Some of them can compete at a much higher level. The travel team would be a much more competitive league. These kids are looking for a little more competitive game of baseball versus what the regular Hanover Little League can offer."
Hanover Little League baseball currently plays teams from the village only, but the travel team would compete versus other teams not associated with Little League International from Buffalo, Hamburg and other Western New York areas while also competing in tournaments.
In 2015, the only travel team offered will be a 13U baseball team, but other age groups for baseball and softball may be added in the future if there is interest from the community.
"We are going to do a test run. Right now, if a kid wants to play in a travel league, the next closest option is Angola, Hamburg or the Buffalo area," Mullen said. "We currently have a group of boys who already play in a travel league and make up half of the team. The parents thought it would be a great idea to move the boys back home and create our own team to compete at that level."
Hanover Little League accommodates boys and girls ages 4-16 from Silver Creek, Forestville and parts of Sheridan while competing in District 38, Section 1 of New York.