Not only have kids have been cooped up for so long due to the coronavirus pandemic, but parents have also been looking for endless ways to entertain their children at home. Now things are opening back up, and Wetumpka Youth Baseball and Softball League is looking to provide a way to get those kids back into some activity.
The league is hosting Wetumpka’s inaugural home run derby Saturday, which will allow kids of all ages to have some fun.
“We were going to do this in May to end the season because we thought it would be a fun way to end the season for the kids, then COVID hit and we had to postpone the season,” WYBSL commissioner Matt Fallin said. “We don’t have a softball season, but we’ve got baseball going now and I still wanted to do something really fun for the kids. They’ve been stuck at home. I have four kids myself under 9, so I understand completely the struggle of being stuck at home.”
The derby itself is open to kids ages 7 through 12 with three separate age groups. There is a limit of 50 players per age group and it costs just $10 per player. For some of the youngsters, it’s tough to truly smack a home run, so Fallin has set up a makeshift type of home run derby.
There will be two sets of fences — one behind the infield and another between that and the regular fence. Batters will get one point for the first range, three points for the middle range and five for those actually hit out of the park. Each player gets 10 pitches.
“This way, everybody really has a chance,” Fallin said. “If you decide you want to swing for the fences every time, you can, but if someone else is more consistent hitting those one- and three-point ranges, they could still win too. It keeps everybody competitive.”
The age groups will be 7 and 8, 9 and 10 and 11 and 12. Although the competition is open to girls, Fallin said he’s still coming up with a strategy for how to even the playing field between girls and boys because softballs naturally travel farther than baseballs.
The biggest reason for limiting the group number is simply so the derby doesn’t take too long. It will conclude with a coaches’ softball game, and Fallin hopes to have the day done by about noon. The youngest derby group will begin at 8 a.m.
There will be some coronavirus precautions in place such as having a limited concession stand and encouraging people to socially distance. However, Fallin said he is pushing parents’ personal responsibility. WYBSL will have inflatables for the youngsters as well as a dunk-a-coach booth set up.
“I’m trying to provide something for the entire family,” Fallin said. “We’ll just have to monitor how many kids get into (the inflatables) at one time. But again, it’s the parents’ personal responsibility. I wanted to provide a fun day for everyone, and it’s optional. If people aren’t comfortable with participating, they don’t have to.”
Although there is a $10 charge for players in the derby, there is no gate fee for other guests. Registrants must sign up via email or Facebook by Thursday. Prizes, including batting and duffel bags, wooden bats and gift cards to local businesses, will be available for winners.