By Christopher Tobutt
Little League began its 31st season in the Cayman Islands on Saturday 15, at George Town’s Field of Dreams. When you consider that there are 27 teams in total, and ages ranging from 4 right up to teenagers, and that every single team has to be coached by a small army of volunteers (along with the dedicated YMCA staff members who run it, that’s a pretty remarkable achievement.
Cayman’s Little League is actually really big, because it enables kids not only to learn baseball, but all the character-building and team building values that go with it. Everywhere you look, the kids were doing their best. It isn’t always easy, especially if it’s your big moment to impress mom or dad with your batting, and you miss every single ball. But that’s where you learn that it isn’t just about winning; it’s how you play the game.
Now Little League is old enough to have some Little Leaguers grow up, and come back as coaches, making it round the full circle. Garth Ebanks is one, and he is presently Head Coach of the Maples team, one of the six teams in the “Pony” league division, which covers the seven-to-eights. “I played little league growing up in Cayman both at the Field of Dreams as well as its previous location next door,” he said.
The different divisions cater for different ages, starting with the ‘T-Ball’ which are the four-to-sixes, Pony, and then Single A, Double A, and Triple A divisions taking the players into their teenage years. Girls and boys join in up to Age 11, and then the girls have the option of joining a softball team, or remaining with baseball. It’s a three-month season, and it ends sometime around the middle of May, with championships and prizes.
Former Little League Director Bill Souza said: “There are so many benefits. All the kids are intermingling so it’s a great time for them to get to know each other outside of school and make friendships. They’re learning teamwork, and we really try to instill good character-building skills. It’s about developing the kids not just as athletes, but looking to who they are going to become in the future as human beings and as people, moving forward for this community wherever they end up.
John Cridland President of the Cayman Islands Little League Its important for the kids to have activities, and I think its more important that we can offer them free of charge, to the children of the Cayman Islands.
Vicky, a proud baseball mom, was watching her eight-year old son, Franklin through the wire fence. “My son loves the sport, and enjoys playing it, and I enjoy watching him,” she said, “he practices at home, after school and he practices with his grandfather.”
Greg Smith, CEO of the YMCA said: “Any sport is a great opportunity to teach kids about values, about sportsmanship, about respect and responsibility, and about discipline, and baseball is an excellent example of that. It teaches focus, it teaches discipline, and it gets kids more active doing something constructive, and that’s what the YMCA stands for.”