Association hopes free fastball the answer
The Langley Fastball Association is hoping some short-term pain will lead to long-term gain.
Faced with declining enrolment in the mite division (ages 9 and 10) for the upcoming season, the local organization is offering free registration for that age group.
They have done this in the past as well.
“If we can get them into mite, we can usually have them for a good three, four years,” said Daphne Polancic, the LFA’s uniform manager.
Polancic’s family is an example of how free registration can create new players.
“It was one of those things where it was free, so why not get the kids to try baseball,” she explained. “It was free, I took advantage, and they loved it.”
Both her son and daughter are still involved in the sport.
Her daughter, now 14, is in her fifth year with Langley Fastball, while Polancic’s 12-year-old son is still involved in the sport, but has switched associations to North Langley Diamond Sports.
And that is the overall goal of the free registration, to get kids involved and hopefully keep them there.
“Mite is ultimately our feeder age group into the rest of the divisions,” Polancic said
Most years, there are about 80 kids registered at the mite level, but so far, with the season just weeks away, only 24 are registered.
Those already enrolled with receive a refund, so the association is losing $2,400 from their operating budget.
Ken Maher, the president of the Langley Fastball Association, said their numbers are down substantially from 10 years ago.
“It is a straight line down in the last 10 years,” Maher said.
There used to be 1,200 registered players, but that was down to 350 last season, he said.
And the fewer kids that give the sport a shot at this stage, the more troublesome the future of the game.
“We are hoping to gain interest in the game,” Maher said.
As a small business owner in Fort Langley, Polancic knows that the economy is still recovering.
“I can understand the economics at this point so I can see why parents might not be registering their kids,” she said.
“This is kind of a double-edged sword: it is a public offering but ultimately we do need the registrants for the future.”
Polancic is sure parents and kids will be happy if they give the sport a chance.
“Ultimately it is a great way to get outside and get some fresh air,” she said. “(And) we hope they enjoy it for a lifetime.”