Freeport Journal-Standard from Freeport, Illinois on July 12, 1975 · Page 22
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Freeport Journal-Standard from Freeport, Illinois · Page 22

Freeport, Illinois
Issue Date:
Saturday, July 12, 1975
Page 22
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By DAN McGRATH Journal-Standard Sports Editor The pint-sized Little Leaguer confessed his feeling _ about stepping into -the batter's box wtten questioned about his motivation for taking part in Little League baseball. - " •-. "Why do I play?" he repeated the question while wearing a look which suggested he'd never been asked it before. "Probably because I really likfc to play baseball. I have aU my life (eight years, a:long time indeed). I'm.not real good, but I think I ; m getting better, /and I get a chance to play. I think I'll stay with it as long as I enjoy it." You're Up To Bat, It's Sort Of Scary' ?ing up to Jhe plate seemed to be a scary experience for most of the determined little competitors we watched on this particular night. At first you found yourself wondering -why, since the pitcher they were facing was a mighty mite himself and might have had trouble denting a pane of glass with his high hard one. Then you remembered how it was when you were 8 years old, and it dawned on you fehat this flame thrower would doubtlessly have been a match for you back then. So what if they don't walk up to the plate with the self-assuredness of Rod Carew. And maybe none of them will ever get any better in the field than they are now. The point is, these youngsters are out there having fun, and that's the way it should be. The men who supervise their activities are enjoying themselves just as much. Men like Doug Rogers, a self- employed barber who runs a modest little shop. Sponsorship of teams in Pee Wee, Continental and Little leagues costs Rogers upwards of $300 per year, and a major portion of his free time is given over to coaching his son!s Little League'squad. Rogers insists he's never been associated with a more worthwhile venture. "I never had an opportunity to play, For The First Time Ever—Girls Freeport Little League Inc. had 30 female members when the .season opened back in May. Roughly half that number are still with the program. "Some of the girls just weren't ready, while others had no idea what they were getting into. Their-parents didn't even know we were playing hard ball," said one league official. "A lot of girls were the only girls on their teams, too, which is a tough situ- Doug Rogers ation. You know how kids can be at that age (8-12)," he added. Among the survivors is 9-year-old Jill McKeever, one o'f the Pee Wee League's smaller but more enthusiastic center fielders. "Oh, she loves it; she has no reservations about it at all," said proud papa Gene McKeever. "She plays center field now, and she's in every game." Jill does not limit her athletic pursuits -to the baseball diamond. As a member of FAST, the Freeport Park District-sponsored AAU swijn team, Jill swims from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. each day in the summer and two hours per day during the school year. With.a schedule like that, McKeever said, baseball offers his daughter a welcome respite. ., "Swimming is Very demanding, and baseball gives her a break. Plus she has a lot of fun playing ball. She really . enjoys it. And 'besides, you have to keep her going. Jill is A very active child." -'.-... Jill's baseball career has known its low moments. "At tryouts the first day the boys booed her," her father recalled with a chuckle. "But as she's proved herself that attitude has changed and she has •no trouble competing with the boys now." ' Not Quite One Of The Boys ball on an organized basis like this when I was a kid," he recalled. "I'm sure that's one of the, reasons why I'm involved. But heck, I think it's the greatest thing in the world to give these kids this opportunity. I'd be involved even if I didn't have any kids." As long as the Little League program does not lose sight of its objectives, it will attract the enthusiastic participation of the children it is set up to serve,.Rogers believes. And it will, therefore,-be a success. But parental Involvement, he said, is the key to that success,"; , , "For too many people we're like a baby sitting service. Pick my kid up for practice, drive him home from the games-I think we (managers and coachesV do enough without having to serve as baby sitters," Rogers said. "But some parents -just don't care enough to get involved, even if their kids think it's the most important thing in the world. , "That's just something I feel very strongly about," Rogers added. "I . think it's a tremendous program. It's the best money I ever spent in my "life." . Jon McKeel devotes considerable time and energy to Little League baseball as supervisor of umpires, and on a strictly voluntary basis. ' ' McKeel is in liis first season of supervising the program's 20 high school age umpires, who are paid $4 per game for work behind the plate and $2.50 for work on the The Blackhawk Of- ficiajs Association makes its contribution to the program by conducting lengthy workshops with the/umpires prior to each season in an effort to teach them baseball rules and umpiring technique.' Even though he is in it "strictly for the kids," McKeel admits his position is a demanding and at times frustrating one. ' "I've never been so busy in my life. The phone is always ringing with last minute cancellations. Either the boys are sick or their parents want to go out of town. Last week it took me until 30 minutes before game time to get umpires in all the spots. "Generally, though, the boys have been doggone good." Freeport Journal-Standard,Weekender, Saturday-Sunday. July 12-13. 1975 Page 7

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