Today may be a white, wintry day, but before you know it Lansing will be warm and ready for outdoor recreation programs to start. The spring-like days earlier in the week certainly got parents thinking that Lansing Recreation Department's Lansing baseball Program (LBP) and Lansing Softball program (LSP) for kids K-6th grade is just around the corner.
"It's getting to be that time of year already," says Recreation Director Steve Colt. "And it's amazing, because when you get a couple of days like that people start to switch into Spring mode. They begin to ask questions about programs that are still a ways off, but it makes you think of them anyway."
Colt's staff has already been working behind the scenes to get flyers ready to distribute in the schools March 9th. That will give parents three weeks to get their kids signed up. Together the baseball and softball programs attract about 300 boys and girls and, along with soccer, is the most heavily attended program the Town offers. Entry forms must be returned by April 1st so the Rec Department can figure out how much equipment, shirts and hats they need, as well as how many adult volunteers are needed to coach.
These programs have run for nearly 30 years. Colt says they are entry-level programs that attract new players to try out the games, and more experienced young players as well. Between T-ball, baseball, and softball approximately 30 teams play in the in-house league.
"Everybody is welcome. Nobody should feel that they don't belong because you have to learn somewhere. This is a great place to learn the game, and, hopefully, fall in like with it before you fall in love with it. That's when you can really take off. We have some very good baseball and softball players here, but they come and have fun, too, because they're playing with their peers. There are also the kids who come out and they want to try it for the first time. It's a great place to start. Nobody's born with a baseball mitt on their hand. There are a lot of skills to learn."
Colt says that many town baseball and softball programs have diminished in size or disappeared altogether, making the Lansing program unique. Participation is high enough that ten to twelve games can be scheduled along with practices.
"It's important to schedule practices in," Colt says. "The games are the fun part, but without a practice or two built into the schedule your skill curve can actually go in the other direction because you just can't get the repetitions in a game. You could play ten games, and depending on what position you play you may not see many balls hit to you or get much action. In a practice you can control your repetitions."
Volunteer coach meetings are set for April 10th (baseball) and 11th (softball) with the first practices set for the following Saturday, weather permitting. The season ends on Super Saturday, June 9th, with final games, bounce houses and concessions.
Older and more experienced players literally pick up the ball in June, playing on Lansing's travel teams. Lansing has 10U and 12 teams that play teams from surrounding towns.
"That was easier years ago, because all the towns around us had several teams," Colt says. "Now it's getting to the point where some of the towns don't really have teams any more, or they've thrown in together, making one less team to schedule. We've had to go outside our normal neighboring towns and reach out to the next level in Cortland, Watkins Glen... to increase the radius of the circle to find enough games to play."
Between these summer programs, winter programs at the FIELD, and the annual Spring Training Players Clinic, young players can play baseball and softball in any season. The Players Clinic is a special session at which young players are coached by Lansing's varsity players and coaches for a day.
"Some of the original kids who played in the spring training player's clinic now have kids of their own that play in it," Colt says. "Years ago we had the varsity coach and team take a half day to work out with kids. The younger kids liked it because they were out there with the varsity team. And the varsity kids got a lot out of it, because there is a big difference between playing the game and teaching the game, and having the patience to run a station where kids learn a certain skill set."
Colt is already thinking ahead to summer as well. He is asking anyone with a special interest who may want to turn it into a session for kids to contact him. In the past these have included pollinator camp, chess club, cooking, music, and drama, among many other offerings.
"We'll try just about anything that's new and that kids might like," he says. "The great thing about Lansing is there are a lot of talented, unique people that live in this town. Sometimes they want to share a program. I ask if anybody has a particular skill or interest that they'd like to turn into a summer program. Let's talk about it because we can make it happen. Those are the things that make the whole package special because it's outside of the realm of traditional stuff. If you can do that it adds more opportunity for kids that might want to try it. We're all better for that."