West Orange Babe Ruth League to introduce softball

Starting in the fall, the league will be fielding several age divisions in the sport.

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  • | 1:35 p.m. June 19, 2019
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In the West Orange area, the options for softball are pretty limited compared to baseball.

There’s the West Orange Girls Club in Ocoee, and Windermere Little League — which plays its games in Winter Garden — but outside of that, there’s no other place for a girl to play. That was, until now.

After a year of planning and behind-the-scenes work, West Orange Babe Ruth League will be offering up softball teams to play alongside its already established baseball league.

After making the transition from Little League to Babe Ruth last year, the option of implementing softball was put out there, and based on those in the community, there was a great desire for it. 

“We had a lot of parents wanting softball right when we switched to Babe Ruth, but we wanted to focus on the baseball side first and get that started and going in the right direction before we started the softball side,” said Tom Hardy, the League’s president. “Starting two complete entities in one year was going to be not an easy task whatsoever. So now we have the baseball side going well, now it’s time to start the softball side.”

But now that the wait is over, Hardy and the League will offer up age divisions in softball similar to that of baseball — including 6U (tee ball), 8U, 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U — with the addition of an 18U team for the girls side specifically.

So far things have been going incredibly well, as only a week into the registration period the League has seen positive growth in not only softball, but baseball as well, Hardy said.

That simultaneous growth in baseball makes sense when you think about it, as it opens up more options for families.

“Parents want their kids to play at one, central group,” Hardy said. “We see it all the time where parents drop their kid off for baseball and then running a kid over to softball, and then it becomes, ‘Well, which kid do we go see tonight?’ 

"We had a lot of parents wanting softball right when we switched to Babe Ruth, but we wanted to focus on the baseball side first and get that started and going in the right direction before we started the softball side."

— Tom Hardy

“I have two little kids, and it creates that, ‘Well you love so and so, because you went to their game and not mine,’” he said. “So we are going to do everything in our power to schedule softball and baseball on different nights, so the parents don’t have to sit there and choose which child to watch.”

Another aspect of focus on making the league even more family friendly comes with the cost of signing a kid up to participate. 

While many leagues see registration costs of $120 and up, Hardy said that through July 31, signing up one kid will only cost $90 for 8U and up, while the tee ball sign up is $54. Then on top of that, for additional siblings it’s 50% off for them.

By allowing parents to save money, it allows them to help their kids in other ways relating to baseball or softball.

“The nice part about it … is they can use the additional money to get the kid cleats or a glove or something they wouldn’t have been able to get for the next season,” Hardy said. “My son goes through a new pair of cleats every season as his foot grows — from that standpoint the parents are very excited that we are able to offer the discount for them.”

While the excitement of parents makes for a huge boost for the fledgling program, there’s also a boost for the league that comes in the form of an expanded boundary.

The league was confined to a smaller space when it was a part of the Little League system, but in Babe Ruth its reach goes from as far south as Dr. Phillips and all the way north to Apopka, while going west to east from Oakland to Ocoee.

That simple expansion in reach has led to the building of a more West Orange-centric community.

“We’ve seen this on the baseball side — and I’m almost guaranteeing we will see it on the softball side — but we see parents where their friends live in Winter Garden and they may have a friend who lives in Ocoee, and they may have another friend who lives in the Apopka version of our boundaries,” Hardy said. “And all three kids come and play, because that group of friends can all play together. It’s creating that West Orange feel, which is what we wanted — where friends are able to play together that wouldn’t have been able to under traditional rules.”


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