Grab a glove, bat, ball cap and an adult 18 years or older: signups for the spring season of the Waxahachie Youth Baseball Association end Sunday.
Baseball and softball players ages 3 to 18 are eligible for one of 10 baseball or four softball leagues that run from late March through early June. Online registration (www.wybonline.org) closes Sunday night for baseball and March 11 for softball. In-person registration is available from 9:30 a.m. — 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Optimist Field concession stand for both sports.
Last spring the Waxahachie Youth Baseball Association (WYBA) had nearly 900 baseball and 200 softball players register. The leagues saw around 2,700 athletes register in the spring, summer and fall leagues in 2017 — up from about 2,350 in 2016.
League president Eddie Gilbert said he thinks the increase, which has consistently been around 5-10 percent over the last few years, is because kids are turning away from football and toward sports like baseball, softball, basketball, and soccer.
"Our kids come from all over the area and not just Waxahachie," Gilbert added. "Our league is open to all kids, no matter where they live. We have teams from Midlothian, Maypearl, Palmer and Italy almost every year."
League treasurer Chim Curry also noted that the WYBA expects for the softball leagues to "really blossom over the next few years." Curry said the softball leagues are in their infancy and started because "we just had girls wanting to play. I mean, we had girls out here playing baseball just to play something." The WYBA began hosting softball leagues in 2013.
Baseball divisions include Blastball (3-4), 5U t-ball, 6U modified t-ball, 7U and 8U coach pitch, 9U and 10U kid pitch, and 11-12U, 13-4U and 15-18 regular baseball.
Softball divisions include 8U coach fastpitch, as well as 10U, 12U and 15U fastpitch.
Blastball consists of boys and girls between three and four years old and allows for every player to hit and play all of the positions. The ballplayers learn to hit off of a tee, field and throw, and no score is kept. The first base even honks to let them know they've made it there safely.
T-ball and modified t-ball are also co-ed. Modified t-ball allows each batter to see three live pitches thrown by a coach before hitting off of a tee.
Last spring, between 80-120 kids participated in each of the Blastball through coach pitch divisions.
New this year is a joint effort with the Midlothian youth league between the 13 and 14U baseball leagues. Those teams will split games between Optimist Field in Waxahachie and fields in Midlothian. Gilbert said the change was made in hopes of keeping kids interested and should give them a sense of playing "travel ball."
All other baseball games will be played on one of the diamonds at Optimist Field, except for the 15-18-year-old division that will play at the Waxahachie Sports Complex. The softball leagues will play at the Waxahachie Sports Complex, as well.
For those who wish to coach or umpire, there is a tab to signup on the WYB website. "And we always need good umpires," added Chim.
Baseball player evaluations will be held Tuesday, Feb. 27 and Thursday, March 1 (if needed). The annual player draft for kids not returning to a team from the previous season is scheduled for March 5. Kids are allowed to play up one division.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith