Harrisonburg Little League (HLLA) was forced to cancel its 2020 spring season but is still striving to give young players the chance to experience baseball and softball in an organized form. For most people, sports require dedication and practice to become great.
Being great starts from the ground up, a notion that Harrisonburg High School (HHS) baseball coach Kevin Tysinger believes should start at a young age. As a former HLLA player, along with his 21 years of coaching experience, Coach Tysinger knows the importance of creating a strong foundation.
“I think every kid should get to experience a form of sport,” said Tysinger. “I want kids to learn at a young age that sports are fun and they are something you can be successful at.”
Starting young allows players to both learn the fundamentals of sports and create a foundation to grow with the game. Sharpening one’s playing skills early on opens up the opportunity to see major improvements in ability each and every year.
“In addition to basic knowledge about the game, HLLA gave us experience that you can’t replicate in practice or at home,” recalled HHS softball senior Karleigh Gentry. “Being able to see live plays unfold in front of you makes the game simpler, letting you understand what to do in any situation.”
Experience is a key component that other HHS baseball and softball players expressed as well. HHS softball senior Alyssa Sutton believes that starting young allows for players to progress more over time, making the sport feel more natural. Confidence is another trait that grows as a player’s experience increases - it gives players the motivation to make a play and be successful athletes.
Following Little League association guidelines, HLLA only allows players that live within Harrisonburg City limits to play, meaning they will move on to play at HHS if they choose to do so. Currently, there are thirteen former HLLA players that are part of HHS baseball and four former HLLA players that are on the softball team. Starting on a team at a young age gives the players the chance to grow as teammates and develop bonds that will continue into the high school level.
“Being able to grow as a team is one of the biggest things HLLA has helped prepare us for,” said Gentry. “One of the things we always try to do is bond as a team and HLLA has shown us that the process can be fun and easy.”
Evan Bert, a junior shortstop and pitcher for the HHS baseball team, credits HLLA for helping build that rapport between him and his current teammates.
“Playing when you are younger lets you start bonding with the teammates you’ll play with in high school,” said Bert. “We get to know our teammates' style of play and it becomes easier to play as a team.”
Besides helping athletes become better players and teammates, HLLA also helps young players find the reasons why they love to play sports. HLLA encourages players to go out and have fun while becoming better on and off the field of play. Josh Engle, a junior for the HHS baseball team, believes that participating in HLLA helped him realize why he loved baseball.
“I love baseball because you are able to make mistakes and not be considered a bad player,” said Engle. “I think that is the most appealing part of baseball because it gives you something to strive for every play.
Making the choice to play a sport is no easy decision but one that can have many rewards.
“Just do it,” exclaimed Sutton when asked for advice to give younger players who are hesitant to play. “Be consistent with practicing because that is the only way to get better and trust that you’ll have coaches that push you to be your best.”
HHS softball player Josie Edwards added to her teammate’s philosophy.
“You get to see how much you have improved every year,” said Edwards. “It really shows the importance of how you practice because that translates to games.”
HLLA teams have started practices the week and Opening Day will be April 24. Registration for both softball and baseball will remain open until Opening Day. To learn more about registration and the 2021 season, visit www.hlla.org.
Opening day is one of Harrisonburg Little League’s most anticipated events for all of its members and supporting community. In past years the event included bouncy castles, face painting, and many other games. Although the festivities may look a little different this year, the excitement for the long-awaited return to baseball and softball remains the same.
HLLA Story is an official blog site of the Harrisonburg Little League Association. All content is managed by Bluestone Communications, a student-run public relations agency at James Madison University. Please contact Isaac Woo (firstname.lastname@example.org), faculty director of Bluestone Communications, if you have any questions about the blog or the stories.