Sisters sports some 'Little' signs of spring

 

Last updated 2/6/2024 at 10:24am

Photo by Matt Van Slyke

A sure sign of spring - volunteers are at work getting Sisters Little League fields in shape for the coming season.

Despite a few dustings, the large snow piles are shrinking, revealing previously buried and iced-over lawns, sidewalks and driveways. The grating scrape of shovels will soon cede to the click-clack of cleats on pavement enroute to formerly frozen fields.

Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers begin reporting to camp as early as Friday. From Sarasota to Scottsdale to Sisters, we're swinging into the spring sports season. Sisters Little League (SLL) is on deck, warming up along with the weather, with temps in the 50s expected next week.

"The youth baseball organization has seen a surge of young athletes these past few years, jumping from 179 baseball and softball players three years ago to 249 last year, said Sisters Little League Board Member Tyler Davis." To accommodate the influx, SLL expanded, adding teams, a new Rookie division and playing-field locations around town.

This year, the league faced increased competition from spring soccer and youth lacrosse. January registration deadlines forced families to choose between known and newer sports leagues. Even so, 220 local children have signed up for SLL's 2024 season.

Based on the latest registration numbers, Davis expects the board will field an estimated 18 teams: four Tee-Ball, three Coach Pitch, three Rookie, two Minors, two Majors and one Juniors baseball team, along with Minors, Majors and Juniors softball teams.

"I am most looking forward to the Opening Ceremonies on April 6," said Davis. "It's the only time in the season where the entire Little League community gathers around a single ballfield."

The annual kickoff event will be held at the Sisters Little League South Church Field behind Sisters Community Church, 1300 McKenzie Highway - but only with help from volunteers.

Davis coached a team last year, and helped rebuild the bleachers and fix up the fields following late-winter snowfall. So did his wife, Autumn, who also served as a board member and vital volunteer, mentoring two of her children along with dozens of others.

League volunteer Lena Vogelgesang's children will be playing in the Rookies and Minors divisions this season. She was head coach of her youngest son's Coach Pitch team in 2023 and has signed up to help with his Rookies squad come April.

"I'm looking forward to watching the kiddos build the skills they learned last year. Such a great program, and so fun!" said Vogelgesang.

The league is 100 percent volunteer-based. Community members and parents help maintain the fields, produce the uniforms, run the snack shacks, coach the teams and coordinate game schedules with surrounding leagues including Crook County, Madras, Redmond, and Warm Springs.

Sisters Little League President Kim Dunn is returning to lead the league, which is looking to recruit a new board of 10 members. They will be easy to spot: the ones wearing the white SLL hoodies to local games throughout the season. The board works year-round to get things ready for baseball and softball seasons that run from early April through June.

Also returning for 2024 is the Hit-A-Thon, a day-long, dollars-for-distance fundraising event where people pledge to "pay" players for the longest fair ball they can hit in 10 swings. For example, a pledge of 50 cents per foot for a player that hits one to the outfield fence line 200 feet away would bring home $100. The first annual event in 2023 raised more than $20,000.

Local businesses that would like to sponsor the league – and see their banner on that outfield fence – can contact a Sisters Little League board member at [email protected]. Anyone interested in volunteering can reach out there, too, or sign up at http://www.sisterslittleleague.org. For the children's safety, volunteers must complete a background check.

Then they'll pick up those shovels one last time this winter for a few field cleanup days. It's a family affair, with parents operating heavy equipment and kids using hand tools to clear ponderosa needles and pine cones, fill ruts on base baths, weed pitchers' mounds and reestablish the lines of demarcation between soil/sand/silt and grass, infield and outfield, fair and foul territory – a community polishing its diamonds to sparkle in the spring sun.

 

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