Little League gears up for big season

Few things are more terrifying to an eight-year-old boy than a baseball flying at his head while a pack of his peers and a coach you just met watch to see if he will be able to intercept it with the oversized glove his father just bought him or let it smash his forehead. Little League tryouts are a nerve-wracking childhood gauntlet that millions of children run every year around the world and here in the Cayman Islands. Somehow, someway, however, virtually every kid emerges from the annual rite of passage unscathed and a little more confident.

A little slugger

A little slugger swings for the fences during Cayman Islands Little League tryouts last Saturday. Photo: Guy P. Harrison

Cayman Islands Little League held its yearly tryouts in George Town over the last two weekends, drawing hundreds of young players from across Grand Cayman. The tryouts are solely for rating players in order to fairly spread the talent and balance teams. Every child will be placed on a team and every child will play when the season officially starts next month. Although competitive baseball is

‘Last year we were still kind of going through a restructuring season after Hurricane Ivan so this year we are hoping to have more players and a lot more parents to come out and volunteer,’ said Penny McDowell, a long-time Little League volunteer. ‘We are hoping for big things this year.’

McDowell explained that Cayman Islands Little League tries to cater to those who are loaded with talent and harbor serious dreams of Major League stardom as well as those who just want to have fun.

Stuart Knox, the League’s head coach with responsibility for player development, has been involved locally for five years and seems hooked forever. It’s rewarding, he says, to know that hundreds of kids appreciate his efforts.

‘It’s wonderful. I walk down the street and I must have a hundred kids say hi to me. That’s a nice feeling,’ Knox said. ‘I used to coach in Canada, I moved here five years ago and I thought to myself, ‘that was good energy, I should do it here,’ so I did. It’s for the kids; they’re great.’

Some 600 players are expected to participate this season, says Knox. Little League is still free to all children in the Cayman Islands, thanks to an army of sponsors who have answered the call again. Originally envisioned by J. C. Calhoun, the league has blossomed into one of Cayman’s most popular sports programs. Many adults who have given time to it over the years are convinced that it does far more than provide the country with better batters. Cayman Islands Little League, they say, is a significant nudge in a positive direction for many kids who might otherwise go astray.

‘We are not as aggressive and competitive here as Little League in the U.S.,’ said Knox. ‘Here in Cayman, we are trying to keep the kids involved and off the streets. We are trying to get parents involved, so we tend not to be as intense as other leagues might be. We emphasize making this a fun program. But, we are still producing young stars. We have some real talent here and we can’t ignore that. That’s why we do the White Sox training camp.’

Knox says Little League can always use more volunteers.

‘It’s important to understand that you don’t have to have coaching experience to be able to help out at this level. You just have to ask some questions and know that you are here to organize the kids so they can play. That’s it. Even if you don’t know the game, we can help you. It’s no problem.

For more information about Cayman Islands Little League or to find out how you can volunteer or become a sponsor send an email to Coach Stuart Knox at [email protected] or phone him at 926-1744.

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