Eudora youth learn to play blastball, a t-ball variation
The attention span of a 4-year-old boy or girl may be a difficult thing to keep, especially when out on a baseball field.
The solution? A relatively new game called blastball, and it's a hit with Eudora's youth.
Eudora's recreation center first offered blastball as an activity in the summer of 2007.
"We had a good time with it, it became real popular," said Jim Kegin, sports director for Eudora Parks and Recreation.
Participants range in age from 3 to 5 years old, and while most are from Eudora, Kegin said some kids come from Lawrence and De Soto. Since its inception last year, the number of participants has nearly tripled which has resulted in sizable teams and multiple sessions.
"I'm always a little nervous on the first night," Kegin said. "This is a new group, so we'll see how they respond."
The July session held its first games Monday night, and it will meet every Monday for the rest of the month. There are three teams (Cardinals, Rockies and Royals) and each game lasts 30 minutes. That means that each week one of the teams plays a doubleheader.
"I think they have a great time, and they keep coming back for it," Kegin said. "The little sisters and brothers that see their bigger siblings play also want to do it next time, so the turnover's been nice."
The game itself is rather simple and is meant to be an introduction to baseball and softball. In fact, the blastball website boasts that it's "the game to save baseball."
Five things are needed to play blastball: a tee, the blastbase, a blastball, a bat and a line marker. The game can be set up on a regular baseball field. The rec center plays its games at Catholic Field behind Holy Family Catholic Church, and the size of the game can be adjusted for older
For kids of this age, the blastbase (which makes a loud honking noise every time someone jumps on it) is set up down the first base line, 30 feet away from the tee. The line marker is laid out in front of the tee. The two ends of the approximately 4-yard long marker touch both foul lines.
From there the game is a lot like baseball. One player steps up to the tee and takes a swing with the objective of getting to first base (the blastbase) before being called out. The ball must travel past the line marker and stay within the foul lines to be considered a hit.
The defense has two ways to get the batter out before he or she reaches the blastbase. First, they can catch the ball in the air. Secondly, if it's hit on the ground, the defense can run to and grab the ball, yelling, "Blast!" upon retrieval. If the exclamation comes before the batter reaches the blastbase, it's an out.
Those are the rules as stated by the creators of blastball, but with kids that young it's difficult to follow the rules too strictly. The compromise is to let them just go out and enjoy themselves, which seems to be working.
Brad Demeron, Eudora resident, signed his five-year-old son Jade up in the May session and is back for another round in July.
"At first it was a little unnerving, but once the first ball is hit you can see that they get the idea," Demeron said.
Kegin said one of the main goals is to make sure no one gets hurt. To ensure that, the game uses a soft, Nerf-like ball, and parents are out on the field helping their kids participate. The parents' help gets the kids to realize what's going on and gets them comfortable with other people out on the field.
However, they are still kids and will tend to get distracted.
"Even from the May session to the July session, I've seen his comaraderie grow and he has a different understanding of the team element," said Dameron, as his son played tug-o-war with the line marker.
Distractions aside, blastball has been such a big hit that Kegin is considering holding indoor leagues during the winter, which would have the same goals as out on the diamond.
"What I want to see is just them running around and having a good time on a baseball field, some of them for the first time," Kegin said.
In other words, he wants them to have a blast.