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Getting in the summer swing of things





The crack of baseball bats at Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex was an unmistakable sound -- it's baseball season.

The facility was in full swing Wednesday as the Hays Recreation Commission celebrated opening day for its baseball, softball and T-ball teams. A long line stretched from the concession stand as players kicked up dirt in the home run derby, running the bases and throwing from second base to home plate.

Inflatables also offered an opportunity for the youth to enjoy summer festivities.

The event was the first program of its kind for the HRC, said Keith Smith, HRC's youth sports director.

"It's a way to recognize the coaches and the sponsors as well as just kind of kick off the season and have a fun start to the summer for the kids," Smith said.

Parents and family members joined hundreds of coaches and athletes wearing colorful uniforms. Approximately 850 children are signed up for teams.

"For many kids, it's their first experience with sports," Smith said. "That's the most important thing. If you get off to a bad start, it's going to affect you forever."

Shane Scranton, assistant coach for the Creepers, said the team is named after a character from the "Minecraft" video game. Scranton is marking his third year as a coach because two of his children, ages 7 and 5, currently play.

The father wanted them to play sports for lessons in discipline, teamwork, fundamentals and sportsmanship. The recreational league demonstrates parents and children want to set aside technology and exercise outside, he said.

"When I was kid, we didn't have the distractions that they do, so for the community to get behind it and want to actually push for this, I think it's a good thing," he said.

Sarah Labriel and her husband, Carlos, said they were watching their 6-year-old son, Mattias, practice throwing. The missionary family returned to Hays for a year for a break from living abroad.

The sport gives their son an opportunity to build friendships and exercise.

"Just for the experience," Sarah said. "It's the American sport, baseball, so I know it's a great opportunity for him to do that, and for the social aspect. A lot of his friends from school are in that too, so he can continue these friendships throughout the summer."

The season begins Monday and ends in July.