Pitchers and catchers report!

That was the announcement that was made by the Board of the Forest Park Little League on Sunday when they kicked off registration for the 2011 season with a celebratory pancake breakfast at the Harrison Street Café, 7330 Harrison.

Forty-five players were signed up for the coming season, which opens April 23. Winter practice began Saturday at the gymnasium at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 305 Circle.

A second registration event is planned for Friday, Feb. 18 at Enchanted Castle, 1103 Main, in Lombard. Go to the Little League website (forestparklittleleague.org) for information about times and ticket prices. Also, players can come to any Saturday winter practice at St. John’s Lutheran to sign up or they can print out a registration form from the Little League website

Parents can register players in one of five age categories: Mighty T’s (4- and 5-year-olds), Rookies (6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds), Minors (9- and 10-year-olds), Majors (11- and 12-year-olds), and juniors (13- and 14-year-olds). Boys and girls play together on T-ball teams.

Registration fees range from $45 for T-ball players to $145 for those playing as juniors.

Fees increase by $15 after Feb. 28.

The registration fee pays for team uniforms, tournament fees and special events. All the rest is paid for with volunteer hours.

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By press time, the board had not counted all of the money that was raised on Sunday.

Parents do just about everything: they work as coaches, or team “moms”; they scout out sponsors; and they put together the schedule book.

“If I’m not writing about something, I’m talking to other people at least two to three hours a day, looking for a place for winter workouts, looking for getting the equipment out [sic],” said Connie Custardo, a board member.

Last year, 180 players signed up to play ball on 11 teams. That was down from 300 players in 2009. Custardo attributes the fall in registration to the economy, but other board members believe that scheduling conflicts with other sports have decreased player involvement.

Many of the children who play Little League also play soccer and the schedules are so full that that kids are often forced to choose one sport over the other.

“The bad thing about that is that you have to leave the soccer field at half-time to go over to start baseball,” said Tanzla Rodriguez, a board member. “The kids have to make a choice: ‘Do I go here or do I go there?”

As a result, John Hosty – president of Forest Park Youth Soccer, and a candidate for the Board of the Park District of Forest Park – has asked to meet with the Little League board to try to work out a more amicable schedule this year.

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“It’s not going to be perfect, but there may be some improvement,” Custardo said.

The commitment for players and their parents is a big one, even if they only play one sport, but parents feel it’s worth it.

“It’s a great experience for them to interact not only with kids in the community, but, obviously, when they travel, to other communities,” said Little League Treasurer Tom Galassini, who’s had four children make their way through youth sports.

“It also gives them life-long learning in skills development and teamwork,” he said.