America’s pastime will soon be returning to Roxana, as online registration for Lower Sussex Little League kicked off earlier this month. In February, the Lower Sussex Complex will open for walk-in registration, as well. And with a few new age changes to the divisions, Lower Sussex Little League (LSLL) president Tracy Littleton is expecting another successful season for young baseball and softball players throughout the area.
“We’re all getting ready for the season,” said Littleton. “It’s still too early to tell what the turnout will be like, but we’re expecting numbers to increase this year. We’re really trying to reach as many students as we can.”
Several modifications to sign-ups are expected to draw more numbers. For the first time, children as young as 4 years old will be permitted to sign up. The Little League association also announced that, for this coming year, baseball’s Senior League division – which was traditionally open to 15- and 16-year-olds – will allow athletes as young as 13 to participate, as well.
“The Senior League baseball division is finally catching up to softball, as far as the age range goes,” said Littleton, who is entering his second year as LSLL president but has been involved with the program for 14 years. “There are a lot of 13-year-old boys out there playing travel ball, and, in the past, they wouldn’t want to play Little League because they couldn’t always get that same competition in the Junior League division. Now that these 13- and 14-year-olds can play in the Senior League with the 16-year-olds, too, it will give them the challenge they’re looking for.”
At the start of last year’s season, the softball Minor League, catering to 9- and 10-year-olds, introduced a coach pitching setup, which required coaches to bring more that one or two pitchers through the program. Last year, a Major-Minor softball division was also created, incorporating a wider participation.
“Those changes last year brought around so many positives to the league,” said Littleton. “We received some great feedback, and it really helped us with numbers. It helped introduce the girls to more pitching and, this year, we want to bring some pitching clinics to Lower Sussex. We’re all very excited about it.”
Walk-in registration will be held at the complex, located on Pyle Center Road in Frankford, from 9 a.m. through noon on Saturday, Feb. 4 and 11, and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 and 15. Opening day for the season will officially kick off on April 21, at 8 a.m. – though, because of a jump in numbers, a soft opening on April 16 will mark the start for some baseball leagues. “We’ve got a lot of teams coming out,” said Littleton, “and we have to start them a little early in order to get the entire season done on time.”
Negotiations are in the works to bring some members of the Delmarva Shorebirds, and their mascot, Sherman, to Lower Sussex Little League’s opening day.
This offseason has been a busy one for Littleton and members of the board.
“We’ve rebuilt one of the batting cages,” Littleton noted, “so now we have three nice cages. We’re looking to add two more practice fields, too. That’s something we’ve been kicking around for the past few years. There’s still a lot to do. We want to get new sod in the fields and straighten up the baselines. It’s all about making Lower Sussex the best program we can for the kids.” Additionally, the infields have been tended and the outfield reseeded.
But Littleton credited his staff at LSLL with the recent developments.
“Ultimately,” he added, “it comes down to our great board of directors. I’ve been with the board for more than 10 years and, right now, we’ve probably got the best staff on board that we’ve ever had. We have a whole lot of support from this community, and sponsors and volunteers have been outstanding. They’re all determined to get the kids involved.”
There is also a need for umpires for the coming season. There will be a clinic at Del Tech on Saturday, Feb. 11, for those wishing to train to be an umpire. For registration information, call Bruce Layton at 539-4768.
For information about the approaching season, visit http://lowersussexlittleleague.com, or follow the happenings at the complex on Facebook by liking them at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lower-Sussex-Little-League/295796604732.
“We’re really looking forward to the season,” said Littleton. “It’s great to see the kids come out each year. It should be another great one.”