Area softball players to have new "Fall ball" option starting in September
If you organize it, they will come. At least, that’s what Holton High School softball coach John Deitrich is hoping for as he moves forward with plans for the “Lila Belle (LB) Fall Softball League” in Holton to begin competition this September.
For the inaugural season, sign-up is open to students entering eighth through 12th grade and Deitrich noted he would like to be able to, optimally, field six teams in the first season.
Deitrich has done the groundwork this summer in working to establish the league, creating a limited liability corporation (LLC), arranging for team coaches, lining up insurance coverage and getting the all-clear from the Holton Parks and Recreation department for the fall games to be held at Chandler Park, which will come at no cost to the league. The one variable that the coach can’t account for, though, is players.
“It’s yet to be seen if the numbers are going to be there or not, but if you don’t try, you never know,” Deitrich said.
This has been an idea the coach has been kicking around for a few years and he pushed for this fall if for no other reason than the experience it affords local players.
“There’s kind of a need for it. I’ve talked to five area coaches and four league coaches who think it’s a great idea to try to generate a few more innings,” Deitrich said. “Our goal’s to try to get them 14 more games in the fall in kind of a low key, stress-free situation.”
Deitrich took his inspiration from a fall league in Lawrence and noted he is hoping to attract players from the surrounding areas, not just Holton, though he hopes the location helps in the sign-up process.
“If we center the league in our community, hopefully we can generate enough interest with local kids that we can get them a few more innings and get them a little more time,” Deitrich said. “Even if they’re not playing with their teammates, they’re playing, and that’s kind of the purpose.”
“I think a lot of people back away from a lot of competitive softball opportunities just simply because they fear the expense. They fear the expense of going up and down the road in the summer; going to Wichita, going to Kansas City and those types of things. “This just has to be as simple and as low key as it can,” Deitrich said.
While the goal is to draw as much interest as possible, Deitrich noted the league also has to be very careful in following Kansas State High School Activities Association guidelines for non-school sports, especially in its first year.
That is partly why Deitrich had to work to line up coaches, as no school coaches can coach teams with their potential players during the school year outside the season of the sport.
KSHSAA also mandates that no more than five members of a school team (including A, B, C, 9th, JV and varsity) from the previous season can play together on a non-school team during the school year outside the season of sport and those rosters must be set, with no rotation from week to week or game to game.
“We have to make sure, seeing it’s a new thing, that we keep everything on the up and up. It has to be as transparent as it can possibly be when it comes to obeying KSHSAA rules,” Deitrich said.
Game play will follow KSHSAA rules, as well, with the inclusion of the flex/designated player roster spot and courtesy runners, with coaches given the option of roster hitting or batting nine. Run rules will be 12 after three innings, eight after five innings and one after seven.
All other High School Federation rules will apply and no new innings will begin upon completion of the 75-minute time limit, though innings in progress will be allowed to finish.
At its core, though, this league is about the players. It’s about the experience, making room for some players that may get pushed to the fringe on summer league teams and perhaps, according to Deitrich, making some lifelong friendships. In addition, the HHS coach noted it could create some recruiting benefits in the near future.
“The other thing that it promotes is it promotes some of the college people, who don’t have things going on Sunday afternoon to be able to force themselves up, come to Holton and watch some kids play,” Deitrich said.
Already, the HHS coach said he has heard from some college coaches who will be watching the formation progress of the league and noted they may be interested in bringing their teams up to face an all-star squad from the league in a couple of years.
Deitrich noted he clearly sees the benefits this type of league could provide for his team, but it applies to any area players who take part in it. He noted there has been a surge of solid players from the area the past few years and, even at the most basic level, they can get something out of this.
“When they finish the summer season, some of them still want to play. They don’t want to practice, they want to play, so this gives them another opportunity to get out, get dirty, get grass stains on their pants and have some fun with some kids and try to get better,” Deitrich said.
With enough participation, Deitrich said the Holton community could get something out of this as well in regards to economic stimulus or just having another entertainment option over the weekend.
Currently, the league is set to have six weeks of games starting on Sept. 6 and running through Oct. 11 (with a make-up date, if needed, reserved for Oct. 18). Games will be played on Sundays starting at 10 a.m. and ending at approximately 6:30 p.m. Optional practice dates are also slated for Wednesdays during the season, starting on Sept. 2, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Projected rosters are to be made up of 12 players (three pitchers, two catchers, four infielders, three outfielders) and registration for players will cost $125. The registration deadline is Aug. 24 (with a $10 late fee going into effect after that date). Players can sign-up and find out more about the league at www.lbsoftballfallleague.weebly.com.