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Pitching a new kind of little league

After more than five decades of history, Canyon Country Little League is rethinking its game

Posted: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Austin Daszek, 6, is ready for the Canyon Country Little League tryouts.

 

While the task is not small, Canyon Country Little League is undergoing a large transformation.

“The ultimate goal is to make sure we have a good product, good coaches and kids who are having fun,” said Bill Picketts, the league’s relatively new president.

Approached by the board of directors, Picketts began heading up CCLL about three months ago, with big plans in his back pocket.

“We’re making things a little bit different,” he said. “We want to develop the kids’ skills and create a passion that may or may not have been there before.”

A self-proclaimed “outsider,” he coached the College of the Canyons mens baseball team for 15 years before trying his hand with the Brahmas at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.

However, Picketts is as local as they come, moving to the SCV at age 15 and playing baseball for COC before moving onto a four-year college team.

“They knew I was involved with youth sports, and that’s one of the reasons they asked me to do it,” he said of his start with CCLL. “We’re getting back on track.”

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.

With all that space, the league gives about 300 to 500 kids a year the chance to play baseball and softball in a community league, Picketts said.

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.

Ranging from 4 to 18 years of age, the players participate in a division based on age, skill and preparedness, he said.

“The age groups are kind of fluid,” Picketts said. “In little league, you could be a 9-year-old playing against 12-year-olds, depending on skill.”

In addition to the traditional range of divisions, CCLL recently added a new one, he said.

The intermediate division was started a few years ago to allow lead-offs and steals, he said, describing a type of little league baseball that plays closer to professional rules.

And good coaching is the key to their positive experience, Picketts said.

While the little league has more than five decades of operation, this year they’re bringing in some more experience.

“All the coaches are experienced, serious, passionate coaches,” he said of CCLL coaches, all of which are ex-Division I players. “They want to be involved and give back.”

Even with an arsenal of changes, CCLL continues to focus on providing more services to more kids.

“It’s difficult because league sports are being spread out with so many new options,” he said, listing such recently popular choices as lacrosse.

To help increase kids’ access to local little league, the group will provide free baseball clinics over the course of the season, host all-star tournaments and run summer camps, Picketts said. All these programs will aid in the development of the players, contributing to Pickett’s end goal of an overall positive experience.

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

“I’m just doing whatever I can to improve the kids’ experiences and bring more kids to the sport,” he said, “step by step.”

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