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  Players toss a ball while 
  marching in the Flossmoor 
  Baseball & Softball parade in 
  2015.
(Chronicle file photo)

With Flossmoor youth baseball and softball almost here, coach Jeffery Kidd is committed to  putting in numerous hours, from regular practices to a demanding schedule of games in the upcoming season.

Kidd, the vice president for girls softball in Flossmoor Baseball & Softball (FBBSB), doesn’t want to miss a minute of the 2016 campaign.

“When I was a kid, my coach was a kind and patient man who took his time teaching us the philosophy of baseball: teamwork, fair but tough competition and more. He taught us about life without preaching to us.”

This season will be different in FBBSB. There were not enough Flossmoor softball players to create competitive leagues in two age groups. Instead, girls in those age groups will play in Homewood Baseball & Softball. And the game will go on.

Kidd still thinks of his coach, Johnny Burchett, even though he had not seen him for many years when he passed away. He played on Burchett’s Jackie Robinson West Little League teams in Chicago from ages 8 to 13. After that, Kidd played baseball in high school and college. 

“That’s who I want to be to these kids,” he said. “I think that the more positive role models a child has, the more likely they are to fulfill their goals and reach their dreams. Nothing is more important to me than helping a child.”

Kidd has been with FBBSB since 2008 and coaches both boys and girls teams. He has coached some of the girls since they were 8 — they are now headed to Homewood-Flossmoor High School in the fall. 

FBBSB, an institution in the village since the mid-1950s, is facing challenges and some changes are already on the way. 

But, as Kidd points out, some things never change. Baseball is a sure sign every year that the long winter is over. 

Children learn to run from base to base and, hopefully, head for home. Coaches continue to pass along their knowledge to young people who are just learning the game.

Merger brings draft, new teams
Flossmoor’s baseball and softball season begins Saturday, April 23. 

The work of preparing ball diamonds began April 9, with the FBBSB’s own groundskeeping crew making significant changes to Pony Field, a result of a first-ever merger between the leagues for the oldest boys in both FBBSB and Homewood Baseball & Softball.

Pony Field basepaths are being lengthened and the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is being extended to match the numbers at Homewood’s three Babe Ruth fields. 

Basepaths will be extended from 80 to 90 feet and the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate will be lengthened from 54 to 60 feet, said Ken Goff, president at FBBSB.

Pony and Babe Ruth players are ages 13 to 16. Goff said players for 10 Pony/Babe Ruth teams were drafted this winter.

With the merger, there will be no teams in this age bracket “from” Homewood or Flossmoor, Goff said.

“There will be players from both towns on the teams,” he said.

The other major pre-season story has to do with FBBSB registration numbers for 2016. They dropped significantly, especially for girls softball.

“We were surprised that they were so low,” Goff said of the numbers for girls teams. 

The girls league has three divisions — Diamond for first through fourth grades, Junior for fifth and sixth grades and Senior for seventh grade and older. There will be five teams in the Senior Division but no Diamond or Junior teams playing this year in FBBSB.

Goff said only enough girls for two teams signed up in the Diamond division. Only enough girls for one team signed up in the Junior division. Clearly, there would not be enough teams for any kind of real competition, he said.

Goff contacted Steve Anderson, president of Homewood Baseball & Softball, and asked if the Diamond teams and Junior team could play in his organization this year.  Anderson agreed to the request.

Sponsorships for FBBSB are also down this year, Goff said.

“We still have sponsorship opportunities,” he said.

It’s time to play ball
Still, it is likely that this year’s challenges will be forgotten once teams start to play. 

Once again, crowds will cheer when young boys and girls take to the diamond. They’ll field ground balls, run for outfield catches and do their best to hit the cutoff man. They’ll know the thrill of a base hit and the disappointment of a strikeout. Some games will turn out better than others.

And they’ll learn lessons that will stay with them all their lives.

Kidd says FBBSBl plays an important role in bringing the community together.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” Kidd says. “That can only happen if the village is unified. There is no other organization, including the school district, that brings the diverse population of children in_this village together like FBBSB.

“The families get to know each other over spring and summer. Children from the different schools meet multiple times per week. It gives you a sense of security to know that no matter where your child is in our town, someone who cares about them is close by.”

Flossmoor, Kidd says, has “an almost utopian quality.”

“That is due to the closeness of families in the village. And that is primarily owed to the interaction of families from across the village, when the FBBSB starts to play ball each spring.”

Coach Jeffery Kidd, far left, with the Hurricanes. Kidd
is vice president of Flossmoor Baseball & Softball
and advocates for the importance of the
sport as a unifying force in the village.

(Provided photo)

Correction: This story originally misspelled Mr. Goff’s name. The Chronicle regrets the error. 

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