Sandlot History
ATHENS SANDLOT HISTORY

The Athens Sandlot Baseball League was started by five fathers who saw a need to provide children in the Athensarea with an instructional, educational and competitive baseball.  The exisiting baseball in 2003 consisted of little league teams with players ages 9-12 and a tryout system of making a team.  As a result most 9, 10, and a lot of 11 year olds didn't make it to a team as there were only a few teams formed. The alternative was rec baseball there were usually about 4 teams and games were not competative.

All individuals involved with this league are volunteers working to provide children with a first class instructional baseball league. With our "every kid plays" philosophy, the league has grown every year and now includes girl's softball as well with players ranging from 7-14 years old.

The fathers (like so many other people) all had great memories of being at the fields, the thrill of having a uniform, meeting your friends, playing catch with your mom or dad, making a play, and playing the great American pastime. . . . .and we wanted to pass that along. . .. 

THE PLAYERS

Athens Sandlot Baseball was created with the purpose of involving more kids in the pre-little league level, teaching basics, and having fun. All kids who sign up will be selected for a team and play in every game. One day will be scheduled for evaluation of skills; batting, catching, and throwing. After evaluations balanced teams are chosen to ensure competitive play.

In 2004 the league started with 7/8 year old division and 50 players.  In 2005 a 9/10 year old and 13 year old divisions were added and we grew to 140 players. In 2006 an 11/12 and 14 year old divisions were added. A 9/10 and 11/12 girls softball divisions were added as well bringing the total up to about 300 players.

In 2008 we were up to about 450 players.

Today, players are divided into 7/8, 9/10, 11/12, 13, and 14 year old baseball divisions and 7/8, 9/10, and 11/12 year old girls softball divisions.

Team practices are held during April and games are started in late April (weather permitting).  At least two games are played each week into June.  A league tournament is held in June with teams positioned by season record.

Some players go on to play all-stars.

In 2012 Athens Sandlot celebrated its 10th year with an estimated 4000 kids having played over ten seasons!

THE FIELDS

The West End Ball Park started with two softball fields originally built by the Athens Jaycees in the 1960's where corn was raised.  The city bought the land and the Jaycee�s built the first two fields. The city added lights to the fields in the late 1970s/early 1980s at a cost of roughly $250,000.   The city added more softball fields over the years. 

By 2000 the fields were pretty well run down.  In 2003, Sandlot was allowed to use the two fields in the back where our first four teams played (about 44 players). There were holes in the fences, pieces missing, and just metal benches to sit on.

The dads that ultimately formed the board wanted to add dugouts to keep the kids out of the heat.  Other fields we played on outside of Athens had dugouts, why not ours? 

Then we starting talking about how the kids would love to try to hit home runs but there are no fences.  So we talked about trying to add a home run fence.  Every kid dreams of hitting a home run.  Here it just runs forever.  Its just not the same.  Well, if we add a home run fence we should probably have foul line fences. And well . . . you get the idea and pretty much know the rest.  It just kept snowballing. . . .

We  started wanting to add dugouts to the fields. We ended up wanting to do what the Jaycees did, but for kids.  Build something worthwhile where our kids could someday play with their kids (and their kids) for  the next 50 years . . . just like what the Jaycees did for softball.

Then, we found out we weren't the only ones.  The league caught right away!  Because  the league was instantly popular, we decided to build new fields to accommodate all the new players.

Not only did we build new fields but we built fields that were scaled down versions of major league ballparks!  The field dimensions and shapes are 1/2 scale of their major league counterparts!

In 2005, we added Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Jacobs Field. In 2006 we added Three Rivers Stadium and Riverfront Park for younger kids and softball.  We also added Crosley Field. In 2007 we added the Polo Grounds.

The hope is to bring some of the magic of baseball to kids who would hopefully someday share good times with their kids on these fields. . . .a place where families could get together . . . . a place to be a kid again. . .

THE ORGANIZATION

Athens Sandlot is a not-for profit registered 501(c)(3) organization.  The same five fathers are also the Board of Directors. They also coach teams and have full time jobs.  The organization remains voluntary and each has contributed significant time, resources, and money to help make the program work.

THE CITY

Only with the cooperation of the City was any of this possible.  In return for improving the fields with over $400,000 worth improvements, the City promised to allow Athens Sandlot to hold its regular  league play year after year and to allow the organization to host tournaments as well in the summer.  The City liked the idea of improving their park and the idea of bringing tourism dollars into the area as well.

Each year Sandlot has held tournaments during the summer.  Many people come from outside the area and sometimes from outside the state (Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia) to have a chance to play on these unique fields. While they are here they get a chance to sample Athens hospitality as well as see Ohio University as well as sample our local shops and stay in our local hotels.

In 2008 Athens Sandlot held 5 separate tournaments inviting over 300 teams.  All the proceeds raised went back into improving the fields and the program.

THE FUTURE

In 2012 Athens Sandlot celebrated its 10th year with an estimated 4000 kids having played over ten seasons!

Athens Sandlot continues to grow. With the help and support of people who believe that every kid should be able to play, play competitively and still have a good time, the league will continue to grow and thrive. Only with the help of people who desire to help other kids along with their own will the league continue to be strong. 

In 50 years, maybe you will be watching your kids children play on these fields. . .laugh. . . . and remember back then what it was like when you were at the field years before. . . . . . enjoy each game and watch them smile when they hit the ball or make a play. . . that's what its all about. . .. 

So when you see a shirt and it has a symbol on it like the one below, you'll know its a Sandlot kid, . . . . . and we're proud of it. . . .and we hope you are too..