NEW ULM With school out and summer officially in session, the New Ulm Park and Recreation department is in full swing with a variety of youth baseball, softball and T-ball options to keep everyone playing all summer long.
The youth summer programs begin Monday and the season last until early August, about eight weeks total. Costs are relatively low and Park and Rec program supervisor Carrie Anderson said that it's a good idea for kids to get involved with the youth sports programs that are offered.
"What we do for youth athletics is we offer a variety of athletics for kids year around," Anderson said. "In the summer is our T-ball season and baseball and softball."
Photo courtesy of the New Ulm Park and Recreation Department
And with those sports, there's a variety of age groups and levels for everyone from the very beginner to the more seasoned veteran.
"The first age group is Bitty-Ball for four-year olds, and we have two different sessions that parents can sign up for," Anderson said. "Those are all four-year olds, so our goals are pretty basic with them. It's very basic skills and also trying to have them follow directions and be part of the group and make friends."
The Bitty Ball program meets once a week for seven weeks. It's offered on Tuesday evenings or Friday's from 11 a.m. until noon. Anderson said that more than 60 kids are registered for 2011.
The next age level is T-ball, offered for 5 and 6-year olds. It meets twice a week for seven weeks and the sessions are either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday (11 a.m.-12 p.m. or evenings).
Anderson said having the three sessions allows for parents who work during the day a chance to watch their kids play.
"We started that last year, and it's been very, very popular," she said. "A lot of parents sign their kids up and they love it."
In both the Bitty-Ball and T-ball seasons, players are assigned to a team at the beginning of the program, allowing the coaches to get to know the participants and the players to get to know one another.
Youth baseball and softball programs are also offered on Tuesday's and Thursday mornings for youth ages 7-12. In these programs, either the coaches will pitch, or sometimes the participants themselves will pitch. There is also an increased focus on proper fundamentals that are important for the advancement of the player.
Anderson also said that the Park and Rec youth athletic program focuses on creating a non-competitive atmosphere for youth to learn, develop skills and have fun playing sports.
Of course, no youth program would be complete without a coaching staff. The Park and Rec department hires eight seasonal coaches and uses assistant coaches to help with the program
"Our coaches are typically in high school or college, have experience volunteering or working with children, experience playing baseball/softball, and have lots of patience and enthusiasm," Anderson said. "Most of our coaches played T-Ball in the Park and Rec program when they were kids, some even remember their team name!"
The program uses the fields at both Harman Park and North Park for the games.
"We switch off quite a bit because we want to have games closer to peoples homes and neighborhoods," Anderson said. "We also work with the baseball association and the softball association, so that way we're not taking over a park."
And in a town where baseball and softball are King, Anderson said it's important for the younger players to get an early head start.
"I'm probably a little biased, but I think T-ball is so important," she said. "It's kind of neat, because when I interview coaches for these potions, we get a lot of high school and college kids, and almost every single coach when I ask them why they want the job, they always say 'I was in T-ball when I was a kid.'
"And I think almost everybody has gone through the T-ball program and I think that's where they get the spark where they get interested," Anderson said. "I hear nothing but good comments from the parents. It's fun and you teach the basic skills."