Little league baseball in Cayman has seen a huge increase in participation this year. Luckily the sport is getting enough hands-on support to sustain those numbers.
The Cayman Islands Little League is currently in the midst of its 22nd season of existence. Matches take place throughout the week and feature some 33 teams in seven age divisions from T-ball up to the seniors.
Estimates back in January when the youth programme began were that some 500 kids registered to play in 2011. Though the actual number is slightly lower the fact is hundreds of children use the Field of Dreams facility in George Town.
Little League president Jim Parham is well aware of that fact. Parham, 51, states it is a positive reflection on the sport and Cayman’s youth.
“The original estimate was 500 kids and in fact there are about 450 kids in the programme,” Parham said. “The fluctuation comes as some have dropped out due to other sporting commitments.
“We understand that the kids can get into other sports on island like football, basketball and volleyball. Our big concern is that the kids have something to do. As long as the kids are in a positive activity and have a sport they can be involved in then that’s what matters.
“The number of kids is actually more than in the past two/three seasons. It was a slow recovery after hurricane Ivan where we had up and down years. But I’d say the progress of the league is fluid and it’s better now.
“The amount of kids we’re seeing now is good for the sport itself as it shows kids are still interested in the sport (of baseball).
It’s also good for the kids and hopefully we in Little League can have more competitions for them. As they grow older ideally they would stick with it and increase the numbers in the older divisions. We’re hoping to build the program from top to bottom as the years go by.”
At first the heightened numbers was seen as a bit of an issue. Little league fund-raising coordinator Sara Mackay and facilities coordinator Al Lovinggood both said in passing last month that more coaches were needed in the programme.
Mackay mentioned that the amount of kids could put a strain on the two full-time Little League employees and the volunteer board in place. Lovinggood went as far as stating that the 11-12 age group were the most affected group as more than one side needed a coach.
In recent weeks the number of volunteers has become steady. Parham, who has been in Cayman 22 years, states filling volunteer positions is no longer an issue.
“As of Saturday 26 February all coaching positions are filled. Luckily we’re also in good shape with umpires at this time. We’re in as good a shape as we’ve been in several years in that area. However volunteers are always needed.
“It takes volunteers to make a volunteer organization continue to run. We appreciate those that are volunteers already but the more volunteers we have, the more everyone else can handle their load. A few hours a week is all it takes.”