Athens Sandlot Baseball Set to Start – Despite Conditions

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Weather in the Midwest plays a role in pretty much everything. With baseball season approaching, there’s not much that can be done besides toughing it out.  The Athens Sandlot Baseball and Softball League is one of many organizations that deals with the issue every year.

League co-founder of the Kevin Schwarzel knows this, often gathering groups of parents, coaches, and anyone willing to help with preparations.

“We do the best we can to deal with the weather,” he said. “We always say ‘Athens Sandlot Baseball is baseball with a football mentality,’ so if it rains, sleets, snows, whatever… tell the kids to throw on a hoodie.

And Schwarzel said the kids get lots of help whipping the fields into shape.

“Parents, coaches, grab a rake and we just start raking and do the best we can,” he said. “Sometimes field conditions aren’t exactly what we would like them to be, but in Ohio in the spring, you gotta do what you gotta do to get your baseball games in, because, you know, when school’s out, everybody takes off on vacation, so we’ve got a pretty short window of time to get the games in.”

Athens Sandlot’s Schwarzel and Jacobs Fields

Some sports teams in the area are fortunate to have better conditions. The turf fields at many area high schools allow them to maintain decent ground conditions even in snowy and wet weather. The Athens Sandlot is different.  Schwarzel, along with a small group of locals, built the first fields that they ended up using. To save money and resources, the fields often need a lot of work before each new season.  The growing popularity of the league requires more field preparation each year. The Sandlot’s first season featured seven teams of nine and ten year olds, this year more than sixty teams of different age groups will feature Sandlot Leaguers.

Athens Sandlot’s First Team.

The Athens Sandlot’s goal is to include everyone, stating explicitly on their website that “we do not exclude any child that wants to play, regardless of ability or lack of money. Our rules require that all children must play in every game.”

Schwarzel is a firm believer in that mission.  As a founding member of the league, he helps put together an opening ceremony every year that includes every player.

“We have a parade every year opening day, ” he said. “We go right down Court Street; the kids get a kick out of it they love it.  They’re on the floats with all their teammates on it, their team name, sponsor name. Then we go down there to the fields and we introduce every kid, every team, and throw out the first pitch.”

The Athens Sandlot League’s opening day is set for April 7th.