April 12, 2019

Warmer Weather Brings Spring Ball Back to Oxford

Springtime in Oxford means warmer weather and time for the ball—baseball and softball—lots and lots of baseball and softball.

Travis Robinson is the President of the Miami Little League in Oxford and says that “everyone is anxious to get started.”

Robinson said that youth leagues offer a variety of leagues including tee-ball, softball, and baseball programs, which also vary by age and the type of pitch. He said that the first league for the youngest age group is co-ed tee-ball program that is for kids 4-years old.

The next group is the 6U (U meaning ‘under’ for kids aged five and six and so on) leagues available for both softball and baseball, which he said is a “hybrid of tee-ball and coach pitch”. Players get three chances to make contact from the coach’s throw and will then hit off a tee if no contact is made.

For 8U leagues, the games move to coach pitch/machine pitch based for both softball and baseball. Boys and girls can continue to play whichever games they want to, meaning girls can continue to play baseball and vice versa.

Kid pitch isn’t officially available to players until they are 10 years old, known as softball 10U league, and played as the “minors” for boys. Followed by 12U for softball, and “majors” baseball for boys; 14U for softball, and “majors” for boys; and finally, 16U for softball and “seniors” for boys.

Players from the Oxford Youth Leagues "majors" get in some pre-season practice, Thursday evening, at this field near the old city pool off McGuffey Ave. Photo by David Wells

For coaches such as Jason Reynolds, who coaches three teams including a 6U softball team and two majors teams in baseball, it’s all about seeing the players develop.

“What gets me most excited is seeing them progress,” Reynolds said. “From some of the kids not being able to throw a ball at the beginning of the season, to actually seeing them playing competitively by the end is great.”

Registration closed mid-April but, Robinson said that from 2017 to 2018, the Oxford leagues overall saw a 13-percent increase in participation. Currently, the number registered for this season is about the same as last year, but Robinson is hopeful that the numbers will “be slightly up this year.”

With so many leagues and teams to schedule, the league faces many challenges. Robinson says the biggest challenge is “scheduling practices and games.” Part of this is because of the upcoming construction at Marshall Elementary School, where the league uses five baseball fields. The construction is likely to block at least one field.

“We were recently told it should only impact one of the five fields, but the school board has not mentioned if they will rebuild the field or not,” Robinson said. “The good news is we have established a partnership with Reily Township (just south of Oxford), and are working with TriHealth, the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund, and The Coalition for a Healthy Community to revitalize their three fields.”

In total, the league operates with about 13 fields for practices but due to things like the construction and the poor condition of some fields, the league only has eight to ten fields within Oxford suitable for games.

Robinson said that the unpredictable spring weather can sometimes hamper the ability to get the fields ready in time to play some games, resulting in rainouts.

Overall though, Robinson says the league has had much success and a lot of strong connections within the community.

In 2018 alone, the league boasted the District 9 Coach Pitch All-Star Champions, and the 10U softball All-Stars won two different tournaments. District 9 is essentially the Southwest Ohio region of the Little League.

Robinson said that District 9 is basically the Oxford community and nine or 10 communities east of Cincinnati. He went on to say that as the age groups go up, the team numbers tend to decrease, so teams from the Oxford league will then play these other community teams.

“We have about 30+ local organizations and businesses support the league and offset about 30-percent of our total costs to run the league. The league also has a strong partnership with the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department, and the softball operation has a strong partnership with the Talawanda High School program. The varsity Talawanda coach provides instruction during open gym time and field time throughout the year to support our youth programs,” Robinson said.

Robinson also mentioned that the league does things to begin and end the year by bringing the community together.

“We start the season with an Opening Day/Family Fun Day with a parade, games, and activities,” Robinson said. “And end the season with an End of Year Celebration at Stricker’s Grove (amusement park) with trophy presentations, rides, etc. that brings the community together.”

This year, however, with spring break coming so late in the month of April, the Opening Day ceremonies at Oxford Community Park won’t happen until around mid-May, after the season has begun. The End of the Year Celebration is typically held in August at Stricker’s Grove which is located in Hamilton, Ohio.

Dustin VanWinkle, the Sports Coordinator at Oxfords Parks and Recreation, said that most games for the youth leagues won’t begin until the end of April. Some of the youth teams are already practicing and the Talawanda High School baseball team already has games scheduled for this week.

VanWinkle also mentioned leagues for adults that form in the fall but also play in the spring. He said that they while usually they don’t have enough participants for co-ed adult leagues, Parks and Recreation does offer a men’s league that plays on Tuesday nights at Oxford Community Park.

“Usually there are around five to eight teams in the division,” VanWinkle said. “Each roster usually consists of about 15 to 20 players.”

Play ball!