Archive for Friday, June 4, 2004

Holcom leagues provide step up

June 4, 2004


It's a rite of passage.

After moving on from the Lawrence Parks and Recreation league, 13- and 14-year-old baseball players have the opportunity to trade in the blue-and-white reversible jerseys worn in rec ball for a replica minor-league baseball uniform.

Teams in the Houk/Ice and Heinrich leagues of the Louie Holcom Amateur Baseball Assn. wear jerseys resembling minor league teams. Players also step up the level of competition by playing more games and keeping score.

"As kids get older, they naturally become more competitive," said Lee Ice, Lawrence Parks and Recreation youth sports supervisor.

The seven Houk/Ice teams each play a 17-game schedule, while the five Heinrich League teams play 23 games.

Even though the leagues keep score, learning and having fun remain the main focus, Ice said.

"These leagues teach players sportsmanship while letting them cope with success and failure," said George Norton, Durham Bulls coach and LHABA administrator.

Every parent and player signs a contract prior to the first game, agreeing to abide by league rules. Those include showing good sportsmanship toward players, coaches and umpires.

"We try to select coaches who are going to model behavior for their players," Norton said. "We want to teach them to let the bats and gloves speak for themselves."

There are a few variations between the Houk/Ice League and the Heinrich League. In April, more than 90 players attended the Houk/Ice League's two-day tryout that made them eligible for the league draft, which was held the following week.

Returning coaches have the option of holding over up to six players from the previous year, and new coaches can protect up to three players for their team. The draft reserves the second-round selection for the player of the assistant coach and the fourth-round selection for the player of the head coach.

Volunteer coaches must go through an application and interview process to participate in the Houk/Ice league. Although some coaches are players' parents, many former Lawrence High and college students coach teams in the league.

The Heinrich league differs from the Houk/Ice division, with coaches bringing their own pre-selected teams to the league.

LHABA commissioner Mike Mattan said that the league trusts the coaches to uphold parity.

"Most coaches know not to just pluck talent," Mattan said. "That doesn't make for a fun night."

Mattan coaches one of this year's two Lawrence teams in the Heinrich league. Two teams from Baldwin and one team from Eudora also play in the division.

Throughout most of the season, teams play against only those teams in their own league. However, Heinrich squads take on the Houk/Ice teams in the intersquad portion of the season during late June.

The two leagues also face off in the annual All-Star game the first week of July.

Players from each team in both leagues choose two players to represent that team in the All-Star game. The head coaches of the first-place team in each league take charge of that division's All-Star team.

Parent/coach Kenneth Click said that the LHABA league provided players with the opportunity to play at an exciting level in a positive environment.

"I want to see my son be competitive, but I don't want to see people berate coaches or players," Click said.

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