Parents sit along the outfield to watch their kids play during a Wednesday night pick-up game at at Phillips Park in Loveland, Ohio.

 

Joe Timmerman graduated from Loveland High School in 2019 and will return to his studies in photojournalism at Ohio University this month.

By Joe Timmerman

Loveland, Ohio – Walking up to the baseball fields at Phillips Park on Wednesday July 29, the air feels like summer again as the fields are full with kids living in America’s pastime.

Every Wednesday night since the first week of July, as the sun sets in Loveland, Ohio, kids have been playing baseball together again. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon these unusual times of social distancing, quarantine, and the cancellation of most future gatherings — the Loveland Youth Baseball Organization came up with the idea of pick-up baseball games. 

With youth sports becoming seemingly more and more competitive as each year goes by, it was refreshing to watch this a Sandlot-esq pick up game happening before in our own town.

In conversation with Matt Kapszukiewicz, the president of LYBO, I learned that they had been throwing the idea of pick-up games around for about a year or so, and that Rob Steinman, another LYBO board member, originally came up with the idea. “We decided to launch it because these older kids had no-one else to play against… so we blended them into a t-shirt league once we got a handle on what COVID-19 meant,” said Kapszukiewicz. 

A warm up pitch is thrown before the last inning of a pick-up game with no score on Wednesday July 29 at Phillips Park in Loveland, Ohio.

When my dad and I made it to the third base fence line with our baseball gloves in hand to check out the night’s pick up game, there were a couple open spots in the outfield. Tom Sackett, my dad’s friend and the supervisor for the game, told us to run out and join in. Before too long, I overheard a conversation between the right fielder and the infield players. 

“Yeah, I don’t even know… it doesn’t matter.” 

“Hey, what’s the score?”

“Uh, 1-0 maybe”

“Yeah, I don’t even know… it doesn’t matter.” 

With youth sports becoming seemingly more and more competitive as each year goes by, it was refreshing to watch this a Sandlot-esq pick up game happening before in our own town. 

“These kids are having a blast out here… just run out there and do whatever you want, play wherever you want,” said Tom Sackett. Sackett is a former LYBO board president and the coach of the Loveland Express, a 16u team that his son plays on, who like most teams this summer, had their season cancelled.

“These kids are having a blast out here… just run out there and do whatever you want, play wherever you want,” said Tom Sackett.

About half of the 16 kids that showed up to play are 16 year olds, the rest are 15, and they all go to Loveland High School.

After talking to a few parents who came to watch the game, I found out that there are usually about twice as many kids that show up to play on Wednesdays, but a player on Loveland’s football team tested positive which resulted in a quarantine for the entire team. 

We had more fans than the Reds!

“(These games) are providing an opportunity for the kids to get out and get some exercise, everything else has pretty much been cancelled at this point. Kids, friends, and even the adults had something to do… just sitting there watching a pick-up baseball game — we had more fans than the Reds. (Wednesday nights) have been valuable for building community and offering an opportunity to stay fit,” said Kapszukiewicz. “We (LYBO) didn’t charge anything, we provided umpires — it kind of cost us money to put on, but it was an investment that was worth it. We just wanted kids to get out and play ball.”

LYBO is putting teams together this week for organized fall baseball games as local teams are starting to want to play again. From ages four and up, spring sign ups will start as early as December. You can sign up for fall or spring baseball or find more information on getting involved with Loveland Youth Baseball Organization on LYBO.org

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