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League presidents reflect, look forward to next season

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H&R team

FULL SEASON — Players on the H&R team at Eastside stand for the National Anthem.

As do all good things, the 2019 summer season of youth baseball and softball has come to an end. The season was hectic and seemed to pass quickly. But now, the league presidents and coaches look back and celebrate the season and set goals for the next one.

For Eastside League President Scott Barbary, he looked at this past season and the next one with the optimism that comes from 31 years of involvement with youth baseball.

“There are several things we still need to work on, both coaches and players,” Barbary said. “But everyone did a great job.”

While Eastside did not fare well in the league tournaments overall, Barbary’s team, AFSCME, advanced to the Elite 8, until they were defeated 6-1.

For next season, Barbary hope to see numbers grow in terms of participation. Eastside currently only has three major and two minor and rookie league teams. Barbary estimated that, in previous years, the 300 regular players once involved have been cut down to fewer than half. However, low player numbers never have stopped Barbary, and instead of focusing on rebuilding, he has instead focused on teaching the players he already has.

“What I stress the most is always that it’s about the kids,” Barbary said. “It’s not about us; it’s about the kids and developing them to the higher level.”

For the Kokomo Girls Softball League, the coaches and League President Jenn Goad hope to see more of the same effort and love from this season go into the next. Goad looked at this season as a step forward into the growth that she predicts in the future.

“I’d love to see our league numbers double, especially at the 12-and-under age group,” Goad said. “Doing the count before the season started, I only expected seven guaranteed kids to play in 12u, but we ended up having 24 players sign up.”

In 12u, it’s often difficult to get players to commit to any one league, as travel leagues and other priorities open up more. But Goad’s recruits, who were all new to softball, put in the work to line up competitively with other teams that had been playing for several years. Goad plans to see the love of the game build in the younger generations, continuing the tradition and values she was ingrained with at a young age.

“When I was growing up, softball was just what we did,” Goad said. “I would love to see more kids come down and give the time to play and spend time with their teammates.”

To tide the league over until the next regular season, Kokomo Girls Softball League has begun registration for the fall season. KGSL uses the fall season as a “try out” for interested players to look at how the game is played in the league. The six-week season has no tournament, and coaches often stop games when a correction needs to be made. Players often try new positions, or even play up an age division to push themselves.

“The fall season is about teaching kids and working on fundamentals,” Goad said. “We don’t want to break the kids down; we want it to be a teaching experience.”

For Taylor Southeast, the league saw growth during the season. The minor league bracket added its first and only team, and president Kirk Wiley hopes to see more next season.

“Growing our league is still the biggest goal for next season, and we took steps this year to do that,” Wiley said.

Taylor Southeast has eight teams total: four rookie, one minor, and three major. With the success and growth from this season, Wiley and the rest of the league hope to see the momentum continue into the 2020 season.