The Parks and Recreation Department offers 4- and 5-year-olds a unique summer game that teaches boys and girls the fundamentals of baseball and an opportunity to socialize with other children.
Blastball is a co-ed introductory to T-ball that can teach kids the fundamentals of baserunning and hitting.
"What is neat about blastball is there is only one base," said Lee Ice, supervisor of youth sports for the department. "First base has a real loud honking noise, and kids get a kick out of stepping on the bag."
Blastball is back for a second year, its popularity in the inaugural season led to the addition of two more sessions. Almost 100 children have enrolled, with about 16 signing up for each session. The sessions take place at the East Lawrence Center.
"It is important for the kids to learn the fundamentals of running, throwing, catching and batting," coach Anthony Buller said. "The kids are learning to work together and play the game."
The hour session is divided into two halves. The first half is for instruction, and the second is for the game.
The rules of blastball permit each batter to hit the ball off a tee and run to the blastbase. The coaches instruct the kids to honk the base, which reinforces the fundamentals of base running. When a fielder stops the ball, he or she holds up the ball and yells "blast." If the fielder yells blast before the batter honks the base, the batter is out. If the batter honks the base before the fielder yells blast the batter scores a run. The blastball coaches umpire the game.
Blastball only uses 1 base, so no score is kept. A soft bat and ball are used, making a glove optional.
"The game portion is the fun portion where the kids are able to show what they have learned," Ice said.
Parents are required to help their child in the field and with the pregame practice sessions.
"The parents are there to play and help instruct their kid because they can then take those same drills and use them at home," Ice said.
Buller said parents can spend quality time at home playing catch and being outside.
"Being outside is better than having kids sitting inside watching television or playing video games," Buller said.
The fast pace of the game allows time for each child to bat.
Laura Jenson and her daughter Tasha signed up because they knew it would be a bonding experience for mother and daughter.
"I've never played an organized sport before, so I wanted her to try one," Jenson said. "We just moved here, and I thought this would provide a good opportunity to meet other kids her age."
For Shawn Howell, blastball is the first organized sport his son Evan has participated in.
"It is enjoyable for me to see him interact with the other kids," Howell said. "It will be up to him if he continues, but he has been enjoying the game so far."
The decision to return for a second summer of coaching blastball was easy for Ryan Martin, who said that blastball worked because parents and kids wanted to come back again.
"I recognize some names and faces from last year," Martin said. "At the end of last year, surveys proved kids and parents enjoyed blastball because kids remember the concepts of baseball when they go home."
Blastball is special because no one wins or loses, which makes it a fun activity that kids want to come back to, Martin said.
"Putting the energy and excitement into the instruction is worth it when I see the kids' energy and excitement when they play the game," Buller said.
At the end of the session the kids huddle together to celebrate, not winning or losing, but simply playing the game.
Blastball is the perfect opportunity for kids to learn the importance of teamwork and good sportsmanship, Martin said.