Last March, one of the first major decisions Grant Hansen had to make after only three weeks on the job as athletics coordinator for Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation was to cancel the spring youth baseball league. “It broke my heart,” says Hansen, himself a former baseball player. The problem was he just could not find enough children.
The reality Hansen faced is borne out by research that shows the number of children participating in organized sports, such as basketball, football, even soccer, is on the decline. Also, unlike basketball and soccer, which have a pretty short equipment list, baseball requires much more in the way of equipment, the cost for which can quickly add up.
Hansen’s passion for the game and his first-hand knowledge of the life lessons and benefits it provides, made him determined that the baseball program would not end on his watch. After all, in a state known for its “fan”atical sports fans and its sports heritage, how could he? So, following some internal conversations, OKC Parks and Recreation reached out to the Oklahoma City Dodgers, initially to see if the team would help the department increase the maintenance standards of many of the outdoor sports facilities across the OKC metro area. However, after the OKC Dodgers learned about last season’s youth baseball league cancellation, the focus of the conversations quickly turned to helping the OKC parks department reignite the program. Out of those conversations, the creation of the OKC Dodgers Rookie League was announced on February 14.
“Since the announcement, both entities have hit the ground running, highlighting this unique partnership. Through digital marketing plans, as well as good old-fashion fliers, the news is spreading throughout the OKC metro area. In less than a week of that announcement, registrations for the 2018 season have picked up, and many community members are asking what they can do to be part of this,” says Hansen.
A decision soon will be made about the OKC Parks and Recreation Department’s 2018 youth baseball league. The OKC Dodgers will be providing the kids with everything from jerseys and hats to bases, balls and bats. Both entities are optimistic that this spring, the signature thwack of baseballs striking metal bats will again fill the air on baseball diamonds in local parks around the city.
– Sonia Myrick, Executive Editor for Parks & Recreation magazine