An emphasis on helping young players develop a better sense of baseball fundamentals is driving a few changes in Forest Park’s Little League, and the volunteer board is offering a unique opportunity this winter to meet that end.
During an informal meeting held Nov. 17 at the community center, Anthony Turek, president of the Little League board, revealed changes to the age groups that will play T-ball and said coaches would no longer pitch games for younger players. Kids between the ages of 6 and 8 will hit off a tee, according to Turek. Kids between the ages of 9 and 14 would pitch to one another.
In response to questions asked by parents at the meeting, Turek said that players whose skills may be more advanced than that of their peers would no longer be allowed to play with older kids. By keeping kids within their age group, and prolonging the use of hitting tees, players should become more adept at fielding, he said, which better prepares them to continue playing baseball after they’ve outgrown Little League.
“Those are, I think, are the major changes we’ve made,” Turek said.
The board also announced a likely partnership with Little League teams in Westchester, which would provide the majority of Forest Park’s competition. Teams within the village would still compete against one another, but games against teams from other communities would be played exclusively against Westchester. This change better enables the local teams to compete in playoff games and tournaments, said Turek.
Winter workouts for Little League players have routinely been held at the Forest Park Middle School where coaches were allowed to use the gymnasium. However, the school recently installed its first hardwood floor and doesn’t want to see it scuffed up in one season.
Beginning in January and running through mid March, weekly skill sessions will be held in LaGrange at the Bulls Sox Academy. Only those players who register for Little League can participate, and 90 percent of the cost is paid for by the league, according to the board.
“What you’re going to get, for practically nothing, is professional, weekly instruction,” Turek said.
The academy is run by former White Sox player Mike Huff and features instruction for both baseball and fast-pitch softball. Huff and several members of his coaching staff attended the Nov. 17 meeting to talk with parents about the skills they’ll work to impart to both the players and the volunteer Little League coaches.