De Soto youth baseball gets back to basics
At the end of last year, members of De Soto's USSSA Division A recreational baseball teams decided they were going to head the program in a different direction one that would make them more competitive.
A year later they aren't quite where they want to be, but they have turned the corner in a big way.
"We decided it's time to get the De Soto baseball program back to the good old days," Coach Don Clark said.
His team the De Soto Scrappers played in the 9- and 10-year-old age division. "We were tired of not competing very well. Though we didn't think we could do it in one year, we've made great strides this year."
One rule change helped teams in different age divisions turn their fortunes around by allowing coaches to maintain and build a team from year to year.
"Teams don't have to draft year-in and year-out anymore," Clark said. "The coaches can actually build a team and keep those players if they want to. It has really helped our level of play and enabled us to compete better."
Clark added every kid that wants to play in the league is assured of being drafted.
De Soto's ability to turn its baseball fortunes around hasn't gone unnoticed by other area teams.
This year they competed in a league with teams from Basehor-Linwood, Lansing, Tonganoxie, Bonner Springs and Edwardsville.
Next year they could be adding teams from Gardner-Edgerton, Eudora and maybe even a couple from Olathe.
"Some teams from outside the area are wanting to join the league," Clark said, "because it has become one of the more competitive leagues around."
Clark also hinted Kansas State USSSA organizers have also taken notice.
"They have looked at us as far as holding some sanctioned events next year," Clark said. "We may even be asked to hold the state tournament."
But in order to secure the bid for the state tournament, Clark said the board would need the city's assistance in getting lights on the north field at Sunflower Field. He also indicated the need for lightning meters at the ball fields.
"We couldn't have made the strides we have in the past year without the help of our volunteers," he added. "A lot of people have put a lot of time, effort and money into building this program."
Last week organizers of the De Soto baseball league got to see the fruits of their labors as they competed in the Kansas USSSA state tournament held at the Field of Dreams in Basehor.
Each age division had between 16 and 20 teams competing with a minimum of at least eight teams.
Clark's 9- and 10-year-old team placed second at the tournament and earned a reputation for playing true to their name. The Indians, another De Soto team in the same age division coached by Doug Appleby, finished in the top four.
The Fireballs, an 11- and 12-year-old team coached by Van Holland, took home the only first place honors for De Soto teams. While Steve Burnett's De Soto baseball team played in the 13- and 14-year-old division and finished in third place.
Rob Mathern and Andy Seibolt coached teams in the 8-9 and under age group.