With the coming of spring, another season of Belvidere Youth Baseball gets into gear. The crack of the bat can be heard throughout the week – Monday through Saturday – at the Boone County Fairgrounds. The older players started their BYB season two weeks ago and the younger players began last week. About 600 boys and girls participate, playing 13 to 20 games through mid July.
Kids as young as seven years old play in BYB, starting in the Pinto League. League Vice President Dave Culvey says at that age, the emphasis is on developing a love of the game. When the Pinto league started nine years ago, kids used to pitch. However, they’ve since switched to pitching machines. The pitching is more regular and the batters aren’t scared of being hit by the ball. At age nine, kids move up to the Mustang league. Most of the standard rules of baseball are enforced and kids begin pitching. However, there are some concessions made for the young players still learning the fundamentals of the game. Eleven and twelve year old boys play in the Bronco league. The pitcher’s mound is moved back from home plate and the bases are farther apart. The space between the bases gets wider and the pitcher’s mound gets moved back again in the Pony league (boys aged 13 and 14). And the Colt league players, aged 15 and 16, play on a diamond that would be at home in any major league ballpark.
Last year, teams in the Bronco league traveled to Dixon to play games over Memorial Day weekend. Culvey says they plan to play Dixon again this year, but the details haven’t been worked out. The main issue is timing. Teams in Rockford and other communities play their interleague games on weekdays only, leaving the weekends open to travel to other towns. However, baseball in Belvidere has to be done before the County Fair begins in August, so interleague games are played on the weekends as well.
BYB plays their “All Star Games” on June 13. This is the primary fundraiser for Belvidere Youth Baseball. It features the all-American combination of pie, ice cream and an afternoon of baseball, played by the second year players in all of the leagues. The money goes for new equipment and improving the grounds.
Almost all of the adults involved in Belvidere Youth Baseball are volunteers. And most, like Culvey, got their start when their kids started playing. “I was a volunteer coach and started going to the board meetings and voicing my opinions. I’ve been Vice President now for five years.” Though the season has just begun, Culvey says the BYB board is busy all year round. “Most people aren’t thinking about baseball in January, but that’s when we meet to review the applications for new coaches.” However, their weekly board meetings have been called off for the next couple of months, so the members can take time out to watch the games.