The mission statement is a simple one for the Janesville Youth Baseball and Softball Association.
Allow youngsters between the ages of 5 to 15 to participate in baseball, softball and T-ball in a safe and rewarding manner.
Having one of the top facilities in the state to do so doesn’t hurt either.
JYBSA is in a good place. Overall numbers in the program are up for the first time in five years, with the biggest growth in T-ball.
That’s important, according to JYBSA board member and treasurer Steve Ellis.
“If you don’t get boys interested in baseball at that age (7 and 8), you’re never going to get them interested later on,” Ellis said. “That’s the age we live in now, and that’s why it’s great to see our numbers up in that age group.
“When we (JYBSA) took over for the city’s Boys Baseball Program 10 years ago, we never imagined we’d get to the point where we are now with the Youth Sports Complex and the facility we have. There were maybe 500 boys that last year of Boys Baseball 10 years ago, and we’ve got more than 800 between baseball and softball this year.”
The Youth Sports Complex, located on South Wuthering Hills Drive, has been home to JYBSA since 2010. The complex has 10 diamonds, six for baseball and four for softball. Diamonds 1, 2, 3, 4 and 9 are considered flex fields, while 5, 6 and 10 are for Babe Ruth baseball and 7, 8, and 9 for 50/70 baseball dimensions. Diamonds 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 have lights.
Having lights has allowed JYBSA to host a number of weekend softball and baseball tournaments, which obviously bring in money to not only the organization but the city, as well. JYBSA will host the 13U Ohio Valley Regional baseball tournament in late July.
“I really feel like we have the best hometown program in the state,” JYBSA tournament director and past president Doug Madsen said. “With our setup and the way fields at the complex are taken care of, parents who are thinking of sending their kids elsewhere are realizing that maybe it’s not better somewhere else.”
Madsen said JYBSA has prospered in tough times because of the generous support of the community.
“We announced our JYBSA Capital Campaign 10 years ago on the same day that General Motors announced it was closing its Janesville plant,” Madsen said. “For us to be in the position we are now and to have the facility that we have would not be possible without the contributions we got from the ‘Big Five’ of J.P. Cullen, Rock Road, Lycon, Prent, and our big dental industry contributors Ellis Ortho, Haye Dental and Robinson Dental, along with so many others.”
Although numbers are up in JYBSA for baseball, softball is trending downward.
JYBSA has softball leagues at 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U, as well as tournament teams at 10, 12, 13, 16 and 18.
Chad Peloquin, the JYBSA softball director, said changes to the current format should help increase numbers moving forward.
“We’ve now added Beloit and Clinton teams in house, which I really think will help build our numbers going forward,” Peloquin said.
“There’s no question that tournament teams that the girls choose to play on outside of JYBSA has hurt, but we think by joining forces with Beloit for the sake of the older girls, that we can put together some very competitive (JYBSA) tournament teams. We had three girls that came through our program play in the state all-star games last weekend.”
Although JYBSA is in a good place, Ellis said there is always room for improvement—both on and off the field.
Parking—or lack thereof—continues to plague the complex. JYBSA has tried to flip-flop weekend softball and baseball tournaments opposite each other to avoid parking hassles.
“It’s more a safety issue than anything else,” Ellis said. “A lot of people are being ticketed for parking too close to the roundabout, which would certainly be a problem if a safety vehicle or fire truck needed to get through. There’s generally room in the front lot to park, but we understand that’s a long walk for a lot of people. We’ve discussed the best way to handle it and are still working closely with the city on it.”
On the field, Ellis would love to see more former players get involved with the program.
“I can’t think of a better way to give back to the program for those that came through it than to get into coaching,” Ellis said. “We’re always looking for coaches, especially with our younger kids. The parents we do have do a great job helping, but we’re always scrambling for coaches it seems when the season starts.”
Boys Baseball of Janesville was formed in 1958 and had a great 50-year run. JYBSA has started a nice run of its own.