LUTZ – For the first time in more than 30 years, Lutz will be without a Little League baseball team.
League organizers wanted something better and voted unanimously to take their kids to the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth organization, a rival organization. The Ripken/Ruth organization is relatively new, but is growing quickly. Lutz isn’t the first youth baseball organization to make the switch.
League representative Rick Parker said the league had been talking about making the switch for awhile now. The leagues are similar when it comes to age groups, but Parker said the new organization allows for more learning with less boundaries as to who can play in which league. “We didn’t think we were able to teach baseball the way it should be taught,” Parker said. “Little League is too much about winning and travel teams, but the kids aren’t learning how to play the game. There were too many restrictions.”
The new boundaries encompass almost all of North Hillsborough County, including New Tampa, Lake Magdalene, Keystone, Land O’ Lakes, Westchase, and other surrounding areas.
Parker said he thought it would be successful after the board members met and explained the reasons for the change. More than 400 kids have signed up already for the spring season and Parker said he thinks the league will have at least 500 by the times teams are put together.
The challenge is getting the word out. It’s hard to drive around Lutz without seeing a posting on a street corner announcing that registration is still available.
“Hundreds of families will be impacted by this, but everyone has bought into the change,” Parker said. “What is baseball without base stealing or pitchers learning about the balk rule? These are things that kids need to learn at an early age. There will still be travel ball and it will be competitive, but it won’t be about winning as long as the kids are learning the game.”
Parker said one of the goals is to make sure the kids that come through the new league are ready for the high school game.
“The coaches at the high school level have been very receptive to us,” he said. “They know our players will be playing at that level and they will be prepared. This is a great change for the kids in Lutz.’’