It’s amazing what one year can do for a baseball league.
League 42, an inner-city league founded to give disadvantaged youth a chance to play baseball, is in its second season and has nearly doubled in size.
“There was a real need for kids and families to be able to play baseball affordably,” said Todd Johnson, vice chair of the league. “It’s been really overwhelming, the response we’ve gotten.”
Last year, the league had 16 teams with 220 players. Now, it hosts 29 teams with more than 400 players, who range in age from 5 to 14.
Bob Lutz, an Eagle sports columnist who established the league last year and serves as its chairman, attributes the growth to the league’s guiding mission.
“We work hard to run a quality league – a league that preaches sportsmanship and fair play. I think our parents … find that appealing, and I think that’s a big reason for our growth,” he said. “We stress competition but not at the cost of sportsmanship. Plus, this is an area that’s been thirsty for baseball.”
League 42 plays its games at McAdams Park, near 13th and I-135, at least three to five nights a week, Johnson said.
On Saturday, League 42 hosted a “showcase” of sorts, in which almost every team came out to play a game in front of crowds of parents and other relatives.
Karla Mason was one of those parents. Her granddaughter plays in the league’s 12-to-14-year-old division.
She said the league not only provides children with something productive and healthy to do, but it also helps revitalize the neighborhood.
“It also teaches them the value of teamwork and patience,” she said. “It’s nice that (League 42 is) bringing life into this park.”
Lutz has received kudos since League 42’s inception – winning a Visionary Award from the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission in 2014, appearing on various radio shows, and even being invited to sit in the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat at Kauffman Stadium during a Kansas City Royals game.
He credits his coaches as being instrumental to the league’s success.
“There’s a lot of good people who do a lot for this league, starting with our coaches. Finding volunteer coaches for 29 teams is a challenge, but when you consider it’s not only head coaches but a couple of assistant coaches per team, really, the coaches are the backbone of our league. It’s gratifying to see how dedicated they are.”
Johnson, the league’s vice-chair, said he hopes it continues to grow, because it “just feels good” to watch young kids develop and learn the game of baseball.
“Really, that baseball field tends to be more social,” he said. “It lends itself to good life lessons, and just the discipline and the camaraderie of teamwork. It’s teaching them competition, keeping them out of trouble and giving them something positive they can do with themselves.”
For more information on League 42 and to get involved, visit its website at www.league42.org.