Play ball!

Shippensburg Area Little League is partnering with Southampton (Cumberland) Township this summer to combine their summer ball programs, and registrations are currently being accepted.

Last year, Shippensburg Area Little League had approximately 270 children registered across all of its programs. Southampton Township - Cumberland County had approximately 230 children registered in baseball and T-ball. The organizations are expecting the new partnership to include at least 500 children, or more in the Shippensburg area.

What else is new this year? 

A new hybrid coach pitch-player pitch division has been added to SALL for players primarily in the 6-8 year-old age group. This division is designed to help bridge the gap between T-ball and the minor level (an all-player pitch division). It fosters continued skills development and a better understanding of the rules and nuances of the game. The focus will remain on the fun of the sport, while more coaching attention is given to fielding, making plays, accurate throwing, and proper hitting technique.

A new online management system (SportsEngine) is now being used. This program is also used by the Shippensburg Soccer Club. This streamlines registration and helps with consistency for parents registering for multiple sports in Shippensburg.

The new lighting system at Doc Norcross stadium will allow games to take place “under the lights” again this season.

“STCC is looking forward to working with the SALL as this will help to unify the programs offered to our local community,” Michelle “Shelly” Varner of Southampton (Cumberland) Township), and T-ball Coordinator for the league, said. “My goal is to have a one-stop shop for our families with easy transitions into each level of play as the kiddos progress. The only change for the T-ball level is the registration will be processed through the SALL website and the kiddos will now sport the LL patch on their uniforms...for baseball and the next level of play, the families will not have to travel outside of our community to have a successful youth baseball experience. There will be additional opportunities for all-star level play as well as to be a part of the internationally known Little League program.”

Varner said the Southampton Township fields will be available for all to use, noting T-ball games will be on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, with all other baseball and softball games filtering around that schedule.

“We have a brand new field located at 180 Airport Road that can accommodate any age group...even adults! After almost two years of trying to connect with LL, we finally succeeded when Bruce Lebitz became the president and opened the communication. Myself, a current baseball coach and an STCC Supervisor, met with Bruce and Tony Norris and discussed our current situations, opportunities and goals for our programs. It was very simple once the ball got rolling. Change is hard for some, but with an open mind, transparent communication and parallel goals, anything is possible. Putting the kiddos in our community first is very important to me and not just in sports. Yes, I know we cannot please everyone, but the willingness to try and always do your best is key.”

Tony Norris, president of the Shippensburg Area Little League, said the process to form the partnership was not challenging.

“The details just all made sense for both sides, and fell into place. It was about doing what is right for this town and the kids.”

Norris said one of the pros associated with the partnership is having different groups with their own set of strengths.

“STCC has a very strong T-ball program, and a great place to hold the activities out at their park. SALL has a very deep rooted baseball program that has been around at Doc Norcross for a very long time. I am personally very excited about having all 400-plus players at Doc for opening day on April 11, and celebrating the start of our season,” he added.

Norris is also looking forward to the programs helping each player develop their skills to a higher level. He is hoping the hybrid coach pitcher-player division will help younger players learn the game and the fundamentals, as well as have fun.

“We are hoping it really appeals to the players who wants more than T-ball, but are not ready to make the jump to a full kid pitch division,” he noted.

Norris said it takes more than 100 volunteers between the coaches, board members and others to make the league run smoothly. This year’s SALL board includes: Norris; Vice President Tyler Sherman; Secretary Laura Williams; Treasurer Becky Kessler; Safety Officer Josh Fritz; Player Agent Joey Eichelberger; Trustees Jeremy Diehl, Lisa Elborne and Derek Bostick; Trustee/Fundraising Ashley Nevling; Information Officer Amber Bostick; Equipment Manager Trent Finkle; Umpire in Chief Roger Morrison; and T-ball Coordinator Michelle “Shelly” Varner. 

He said the partnership doesn’t bring much change in how the league operates. Parents will register players on the new SALL website that will help keep things organized from an administrative perspective, he added.

“At a higher level, the T-ball program now has the backing and structure of the SALL board, all the way up to Little League International. But, day-to-day to the player, everything remains the same,” he assured.

Online registration for baseball is available now, and will be open until Feb. 1. T-ball registration is also open, and will be available until March 31. Both can be found on the website at: www.shippensburglittleleague.com/signup.

Softball registration details are available online through STCC at: https://southamptontwp.com/parks-rec/upcoming-events-2/.

On-site registrations are also being held at Doc Norcross Stadium on South Fayette Street. The next on-site registrations are scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, and Wednesday, Feb. 5.

Spring Clean Up will be Saturday, April 4, to get the fields ready for Opening Day Ceremonies, which will be held Saturday, April 11.

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