Cal Ripken has opening ceremonies

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Demopolis Youth Baseball kicked off its 2009 campaign Monday with the opening day ceremonies for the Cal Ripken League. More than 300 players, coaches and family members gathered at the Sports-Plex Tuesday evening to enjoy the ceremonies.

“We’re up about two to three percent over last year,” league president Art Evans said of the association’s total participation, which saw 267 players registered for 2009 competition. “The economy may not be doing good, but youth baseball in Demopolis doesn’t show the effects.”

According to Evans, the spike in league enrollment has also been accompanied by an increase in volunteer coaches.

“The leagues are dong great,” Evans said. “We’ve got more volunteer coaches this year.” The leagues generally average about two coaches per team. This year, the collective averages more than three coaches per team.

“I think that says a lot about our community,” Evans said. “We’re excited that we’ve got so much support.”

The opening day ceremonies are generally followed by the start of league play. However, Tuesday’s festivities finished with the conclusion of the ceremonies.

“We chose to do our opening ceremonies this year to recognize our sponsors,” Evans said.

One of those sponsors, Amelia Traeger, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Along with her late husband, Billy, she represents Demopolis Youth Baseball’s longest-running sponsor.

“There has never been a year of organized youth baseball in Demopolis when Traeger’s wasn’t a part of it,” District 10 commissioner Rob Pearson said.

“The commitment that Mr. Traeger and Mrs. Traeger have had is phenomenal,” Evans said.

Evans and Pearson credit the commitment of the league’s sponsors with much of its continued growth.

“This league has served as sort of a model for other leagues to try and follow around the area,” Pearson said.

The league’s success coupled with the quality of facilities at the Sports-Plex helped Demopolis land the Babe Ruth 14U All-Star tournament last year and earned it the nod to host the Cal Ripken 10U All-Star tournament this season.

“This year we actually have a 10-year-old tournament,” Evans said. “That is exciting. It is conceivable we will have two teams from our district, District 10, playing in that tournament.”

This season will also see a shortened regular schedule for the league.

“We’re on a shortened season this year, two weeks shorter than we’ve had in the past,” Evans said. “Primarily because of the opportunity we’ve added with the youth SSSA travel ball.”

DYBL’s decision to absorb the SSSA travel ball team that formed last year led to the organization hosting a pair of SSSA tournaments at the conclusion of the regular season.

“We’re excited about our season starting,” Evans said.

Evans is in his first year at the league’s helm.

“He’s working his tail off,” Pearson said. “In this world there are leaders and followers and we’re just tickled to have a leader like Art involved in our league.”

Tuesday’s festivities also paid homage to Scott Parten, who served as the league’s president over the past two seasons.

“Scott transitioned us from Dixie (Youth) to Cal Ripken,” Pearson said. “He was willing to think out of the box. Demopolis Youth Baseball grew as a result of it.”