All over Flossmoor, families are getting ready for the hallmark of a great summer: Flossmoor Baseball and Softball. The annual tradition, which began more than five decades ago, continues to draws young players, their siblings, parents and even the family dog to parks all over town for an evening of America’s favorite pastime.
“It’s not about winning, it’s about families being together,” said Tom Dobrez, a board member of the Flossmoor Baseball and Softball organization, who played Flossmoor baseball as a boy and whose children all enjoyed years in the league. “The kids learn the game. They learn sportsmanship and really get a sense of the community coming together and bonding.”
Many former players are now parents, even grandparents, of players, Dobrez said.
This year’s baseball and softball season starts Saturday, April 25 with an 8 a.m. parade from Parker Junior High School to Flossmoor Park. A retired baseball and softball volunteer, chosen by the league’s board, serves as the parade’s grand marshal. At Flossmoor Park, other activities are planned — teams gather in the outfield, League President Ken Goff makes announcements, Flossmoor Girl Scouts serve as color guards, team spirit awards are given out and the National Anthem is sung. The league’s mascot, Homerun Hank, makes his first 2015 appearance at the ballpark.
About 300 Flossmoor youth ages 4 to 18 will take to the fields this summer in a league that hasn’t changed much in more than 50 years, with the exception of adding girls’ softball teams about 30 years ago. The games are played for fun; winning is secondary, Dobrez said.
“Individuals with exceptional skills move on to other programs, and we’re very proud of them,” he said.
Children still get full uniforms that identify them as members of a major league baseball team.
“We pay extra and give them very professional-looking jerseys,” Dobrez said. “It’s their day in the sun. And the kids have to wear them. We’re sticklers for it. It’s important to have a history and tradition.”
Other traditions include nickel-priced candy at the concession stand, which Dobrez said is “the greatest hang-out,” and lots of brothers and sisters running around the park.
“It’s like a scene by Norman Rockwell,” he said. “It’s a real throw-back. It’s one of the things that show how strong this community is.”
Flossmoor Baseball and Softball is an independent league run by parents and community volunteers.
This year’s boys in-house leagues include: Filly/Shetland coed T-ball, pre-K to first grade, five teams; Pinto, first and second grades, seven teams; Mustang, third and fourth grades, six teams; Bronco, fifth and sixth grades, seven teams and Pony, seventh grade through high school, four teams. Girls in-house leagues include: Diamond, first through third grades, four teams; Junior, fourth through sixth grades, five teams and Senior, seventh grade through high school, five teams.
The league also has several travel leagues for both boys (Flossmoor Firebirds) and girls (Flossmoor Hurricanes). Boys have nine travel teams for ages 8 to 14. Girls have four travel teams for ages 10 to 16.
Fans can follow the action on a new website, www.flossmoorbbsb.com. It will keep track of games, schedules, standings and statistics.
Tom and Patty Houlihan contributed to this story.