Summertime means a break from school, a dip in the pool, and – for a lot of area youngsters – long, hot afternoons and evenings at the ballpark. Baseball and softball are as popular as ever, and there are plenty of local opportunities for kiddos to learn the sport. From Opening Day ceremonies in early April to the All-Star and State tournaments in July, the games are a big part of summer in Texas.
Palestine Youth Athletic Association (PYAA) Commissioner Chris Holman reports that there were 650 boys and girls, ages 3 to 15, on the PYAA’s fifty-two teams this year. Elkhart Youth Athletic Association Softball Commissioner Felicia Lee reported 150 youngsters (3-15 years old) on fifteen EYAA teams.
Local businesses help sponsor teams, and in addition to financial support, there is a huge investment of time involved. Summer ball is a family commitment. Each team has two-to-five coaches, plus dugout moms, and concession stand workers. Volunteers get the fields ready and generations of fans fill the stands. And, if the players are lucky enough, and good enough, there are the playoffs and tournament play -- and that entails travel.
This week, the EYAA 8-U Rangers Softball team will be going to the Texas Teenage Association of Softball's state tournament in Rusk on July 8th, after taking first place in their district tournament. The EYAA 10-U Rockies Softball team will also compete at State after finishing second in their tournament. State for that division will be in Corsicana on the 8th.
Dixie Youth Baseball's Palestine All-Star 10-U boys team is composed of top players from the seven teams in the PYAA summer league. The All-Star team is loaded with talent and strong pitching. They took second in the DYB district tournament last weekend in Malakoff and are headed to the Regional Tournament in at Mount Pleasant's Fair Park next weekend, July 6-8, with their eyes on the next prize -- a trip to State.
Fundraising, therefore, is another aspect of summer youth sports. The Palestine All Stars set up a booth at the Brookshire parking lot on Friday morning, selling lemonade and soliciting donations to fund their trip to the DYB regional tournament in Mount Pleasant. Each boy has a family, and each family will be staying in motels during the tournament. For many, that expense is a challenge to the family budget.
On the flip side of that coin, hosting a tournament brings a lot of folks to town and that benefits local restaurants, motels and gas stations. Palestine will see an influx of visitors on July 19-27, when the Texas Ranger Series Softball league, a branch of DYB, holds their first-ever softball state tournament here. The event will bring an estimated 30-40 teams to our city for the 2019 tournament and they are already booked here again in 2020. The four fields at the PYAA complex are being whipped into shape this week, and some of the older teams may play at Westwood ISD’s softball field.
PYAA Commissioner Holman was quick to praise the army of volunteers who make this all possible. “Without them we couldn’t make it happen. And the City of Palestine is stepping up, patching holes….we appreciate their help.”