West Jordan: A Youth Baseball Hotbed
Jun 19, 2015 05:48PM
● By Greg James
The West Jordan Pony players have had fun learning to play the game; the Padres were victorious over the Angels 19-2. Photo courtesy of Greg James
Youth baseball in West Jordan City is thriving. With two operating leagues and 10 diamonds, over 1100 of the city’s youth are pitching strikes and hitting homeruns, with numbers increasing slightly from last season. The increase in players in West Jordan is completely opposite to other areas around the country.
According to a January 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal, combined participation in the four most popular team sports -- basketball, soccer, baseball and football -- fell by roughly 4 percent among girls and boys ages six through 17. Baseball bat sales have dropped 18 percent since 2008. The leaders of local leagues attribute their success to hardworking volunteers and the excitement baseball brings to the players and families that support the leagues.
West Jordan youth have learned to enjoy and have fun playing baseball. Eleven-year-old Colton Atherley is having fun playing first base for the Cubs at West Jordan/Copper Hills. Photo courtesy of Greg James
West Jordan Pony operates at Veterans Memorial Park, 2200 West 7800 South. West Jordan/Copper Hills Baseball plays its games at Ron Wood Memorial Park, 5900 West New Bingham Highway. Both leagues boast five fields with snack bars. Each league is affiliated with different national baseball organizations.
West Jordan/Copper Hills is part of Cal Ripken Baseball and Babe Ruth for the older boys. They have over 740 participants this season. Teresa Atherley is league president and manages a board of 22 volunteers. Parents help organize each age group of teams, schedule umpires, coordinate the snack bar, schedule fields and incorporate an accelerated program for more advanced players.
“Our league is a family. If the call ever goes out or there is an issue, the baseball community is here for each other. We have issues, there are coaches that freak out or umpires that call games wrong, but we know that when we leave the field this is a baseball family,” Atherley said.
West Jordan Pony is affiliated with the national organization PONY, which stands for “Protect Our Nation’s Youth.” They have just over 400 players in the league. Like the other league, a board of volunteers helps organize and run the league; Sykes is the league president.
Both youth baseball leagues rely on West Jordan City to maintain the parks, but parents chalk the fields, rake out the rough infields and generally maintain their baseball fields. Both leagues have had to battle the rain this season.
“Rain was a major obstacle this year. The last few weeks have been crazy busy to try to play all of our games,” Sykes said.
Both leagues have joined with Rocky Mountain School of Baseball to give accelerated players an advanced opportunity to play. On Saturdays both leagues host super league games on their fields and have age group teams playing alongside the more advanced players.
“The level of play in our league has gone up because our advanced players have had a chance to play at a higher level with Rocky Mountain. That skill comes back into the lower level league games and makes everyone else better,” Sykes said.
Atherley attributes some of the leagues’ success to Copper Hills High School’s baseball teams.
“They set up a clinic and help us with tryouts. They even have some of the players out here umpiring. I think the coaches like the kids to be out here and involved. It gives them more experience,” Atherley said.
Despite the rain this season, the Mustang Yankees in the Pony league are undefeated, and the Pinto A’s, Bronco Mets and Pony Giants have only lost one game. At West Jordan/Copper Hills, they have experienced some of the same success. The Peewee Yankees are undefeated, the Brewers have only lost once and Minor White Sox and Major Braves have two losses.
“The league has been around a long time. We are dedicated to the kids 100 percent,” Sykes said.
Each league will select all-star teams to compete for state championships in their age divisions. Those tournaments are scheduled to begin the end of June at various locations around the Wasatch Front.