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National pastime alive and well in the Avenues

Published May 16, 2013 11:53 am

Gamesmanship • League organizers say they strive for a feeling of mutual respect.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On May 11, the Avenues baseball league held its annual Diamond Day fundraiser, an event used to raise funds to sustain the league and to celebrate the national pastime.

With more than 200 players ages 5 to 12, the league is one of the oldest and largest in the state. In a state that prides itself on outdoor activities, children have a plethora of choices during summer break. Baseball is one that makes each child the star, organizers say.

"From the time the batter steps up to the plate, until their at-bat is finished, the game is all about them," said Luke Smart, board member of the league. "Every eye focuses on the batter and everyone holds their breath as the pitch races toward the plate."

With many team sports, the game can be decided by the best players. One athletic forward can take control in soccer or basketball while the other kids stand and watch. The Avenues baseball league, which plays at Lindsey Gardens at 7th Avenue and N Street, makes it a point that every player gets an opportunity to bat, giving parents a chance to cheer on their children.

One parent, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, has enrolled the newest recruits to the league, his 7-year-old twins and 4-year-old son. While the boys still participate in Saturday morning soccer, they have already warmed up to the league, spending their free time practicing throwing in the yard.

"So many kids these days have opportunities to do individual things — video games, playing on the Internet, spending time on their cellphones," McAdams said. "This is an opportunity to get outside, be active and learn to socialize and rely on and count on your peers."

Commissioner Bart Cocke approached McAdams to throw out the first pitch at the Diamond Days celebration, an honor the mayor gladly accepted. While he joked that he'd prefer to have one of the machines pitch for him, his pitch sailed smoothly across the plate.

"I was happy to do it," McAdams said. "The kids are really enjoying it, and it's a fun opportunity to meet and get to know some of our neighbors."

While the recent death of a Utah soccer referee has made national headlines, the Avenues baseball league remains committed to sportsmanship. In any sport, even with young kids, competitive energy is unavoidable, but Smart feels the attitude in the league is one of mutual respect.

"In the end, we shake hands and congratulate each other because it's all about the kids," he said. "That's why we do this, we want the kids to develop their skills, learn to compete and build their confidence, but above all we just want them to have fun. And they do."

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At a glance

The Avenues baseball league is open to all children ages 5 to 12, with the league split into four divisions. There is also a Pony League for players age 13 and 14.

Donations remain important for league growth. Field rental costs have gone up from $450 last season to more than $2,100 this season. The cost per child ranges from $65 to $105 for the season.

Any questions or information requests can be directed to Bart Cocke at bart@avesbaseball.org.