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Big changes for Canyon Country Little League

The league is getting a new name and new leadership

Posted: November 11, 2013 9:30 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2013 9:30 p.m.

Bill Picketts, newly appointed president of Canyon Country Little League, stands in front one of the league's baseball fields located near the corner of Sierra Highway and Vasquez Canyon Road.

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The history and nostalgia is already built in at Canyon Country Little League.

Various signs and logos are found on the fences surrounding the well-groomed fields.

Among them is a building in the middle that boasts banners of the league’s accomplishments through the years.

Inside of the building, more than 50 years of banners line two full walls.

There’s no doubt the league has a rich history.

And that’s the type of tradition the league is trying to preserve while embarking on an extensive re-branding in the coming months.

The biggest, and most unprecedented change taking place is the name change from Canyon Country Little League (CCLL) to Santa Clarita Valley Little League.

“The plan is there and it’s going to be a lot of work,” said newly appointed league president Bill Picketts of the name change. “There’s all kinds of Canyon Country Little League things out here. And we’re not forgetting it. We just think it would be better for the league to be encompassing all of Santa Clarita.”

Picketts has been involved with the baseball community in the Santa Clarita Valley for most of his life, most recently serving as an assistant coach for the College of the Canyons baseball team.

After 13 years at COC, he took an assistant job this year at Pierce College.

But his local connections are well documented, which is a big reason CCLL’s board of directors approached Picketts when they decided they wanted a change of direction and a fresh face in charge.

“When they asked me, intrigued is the word that came to mind. It was intriguing,” said Picketts, who is replacing former president Lance Hauser.

The top priority for the organization is growth. The program has seen significant declines in membership after peaking at around 1,000 kids roughly 10 years ago, said CCLL board member Steve Katz.

“Something needed to change. We needed to do something new. Get more people out here,” said Katz who is the longest tenured current board member at 16 years. “There was a time when we would have 1,000 kids and 18 tee ball teams. And now we’re 600 during the spring. We have the potential and the room for a lot more growth.”

The league’s current home sits on a plot of land roughly 20 acres in size just off the road near the corner of Sierra Highway and Vasquez Canyon Road.

There are six fields in all — two for tee ball, one for softball and three for various levels of baseball.

Katz says that leaves plenty of room for participants.

That’s where the name change comes into play.

Despite the league’s name, its boundaries cover nearly all of the SCV other than the western most portion of Valencia and west of Interstate 5.

CCLL can pull kids from as far north as Agua Dulce and Vasquez as well.

The rest of the SCV is covered by Castaic Little League, the only other little league affiliate in the valley.

League officials are hoping the new name will encourage kids from outside Canyon Country to not only join but stick around through age 15.

In recent years, the league has struggled to keep kids around past the 13-year-old levels due to a perception that Little League is less competitive than travel ball or PONY.

That’s a perception CCLL wants to change with someone like Picketts around.

Under the new leadership, there are plans to bring in more baseball coaches from around the community to run free clinics to teach kids basic fundamentals of both baseball and softball.

People with extensive backgrounds like Picketts can bring in the right people to teach the game properly.

That includes area high school coaches and a few Major League scouts to volunteer their time for the league.

“It’s about giving back a little bit and teaching the fundamentals of playing the game by having guys out here who are knowledgeable about the game,” Picketts said.

Picketts played baseball at Granada Hills High, followed by COC for two years and Long Beach State after that.

He was then picked in the 12th round of the 1990 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, where he spent three years in the minor leagues with the Athletics’ organization.

He got his first coaching job as the head freshman coach at Saugus High under then-varsity coach Doug Worley.

While Picketts will handle the baseball side, CCLL is also bringing in Ashley Herrera, a former Valencia High and UCLA softball player.

She’ll be using some of her own connections to invite reputable softball coaches to the facility.

The philosophy of the league will be about teaching kids how to play these sports as they are supposed to be played.

That’s always been a top priority for one of the SCV’s biggest youth baseball and softball programs.

Regardless of the name.

For more information on the league or to sign up, visit CCLL.org.

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