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KCRD changes things for baseball and softball

Posted: January 30, 2014 1:12 p.m.
Updated: January 31, 2014 5:00 a.m.

It may not seem like baseball and softball season is right around the corner, but those snow-covered diamonds will soon be giving way to green grass and youngsters playing on them.
This year, after months of meetings with league volunteers and members of the community, the Kershaw County Recreation Department has implemented changes to its 2014 baseball and softball programs. Registration begins on Monday, Feb. 3 for both sports and the KCRD is offering online registration at www.kershaw.sc.gov or, at the KCRD office on West DeKalb Street in Camden.
For those registering online, locate the sports tab which will take you to the link for athletics registration. Credit cards will be required for on-line registration while those registering in person may pay with cash, check or credit card.
Both youth baseball and girls softball will undergo shifts this spring, including the creation of a player-pitch division for 9-10-year-olds. The age for the boys is as of May 1, 2014 while for girl’s softball, eligibility is determined by the players’ age as of Jan. 1, 2014.
Here are the age divisions for the baseball leagues: 4-5 T-Ball (co-ed); 6-8 AA (coach pitch); 9-10 Dixie AAA; 11-12 Dixie O-Zone; 13-14 Dixie Boys; 15-18 Dixie Majors.
Here are the age divisions for the softball leagues: 4-5 T-Ball (co-ed); 6-8 Darlings (coach pitch); 9-10 Angels; 11-12 Ponytails; 13-18 Belles/Debs.
Among the biggest changes this season are car pool requests will no longer be accepted and the head coach of a team will be the only coach allowed to have their child placed on their squad. Head coaches must draft the child of a potential assistant to ensure his/her place on the coaching staff. That, said KCRD director Joe Eason, will prevent three assistant coaches who have talented sons/daughters from coming together to form one-quarter of a team and get an unfair advantage in league play.
Beginning this year, all players will be evaluated and drafted to form new teams. Assuming they are eligible by age, players will not automatically return to the team for which they played in 2013. Also, players who wish to play in an older division will be required to attend an evaluation session on Monday, March 3 at 6 p.m. at Woodward Park in Camden where they will be evaluated by parks and recreation professionals associated with nearby leagues to evaluate each child’s ability to play in an older division. The evaluators’ decision is final and cannot be appealed.
Eason said the implementation of the new rules is being done to level the playing fields throughout the department.
“One of the (new rules) which was the most discussed has been re-drafting every year,” Eason said the meetings involving league volunteers and community members. “Each of these has been done to create parity in the leagues so that all teams, in theory, are more balanced and kids have more fun. If it is more fun, the kids tend to come back and want to play more.”
Not to his surprise, Eason said he has received both positive and negative feedback which comes with the territory anytime changes are made. “Change is never easy,” he said. “And change when you’re happy with something is even more difficult.
“We also heard from some folks who said that it was a change that was needed. We’re taking this all into account. We realize it won’t meet with everyone’s approval but it was done with deliberation with community leaders who have coached or currently coach in our program. We met with them three different times to get their feedback and not all of those meetings were in agreement. But they were done with the kids’ best interest at heart.
“We asked ourselves, ‘Is it good for the kids?’ In our view, at least, these changes are good.
“There are pros and cons both ways,” he added. “Our hope is that creates more balance, puts a higher premium on putting together the best team every year and not just planning for the second year.”
The most discussed change is the re-drafting of the players each year. That, Eason said, will be re-evaluated after the first year in order to determine its effectiveness. “We’ll do that not only with these changes, but with the entire program to determine our effectiveness,” Eason said. “Where it makes sense, we’ll adjust and where it doesn’t, we’ll try to tweak it until it is good.
“I know that change is not easy,” he said. “But if it doesn’t work, then we’ll find something that works better.”

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