Fifty-nine years ago, Woodstock Little League was established. Two of its founders, Dwayne Raney and Don Peasley, are still involved with the organization, and the WLL saw fit to recognize them at the organization’s opening ceremonies April 21.
“I’m really amazed at both of them, that they have the passion to stay involved for 59 years and how much they care about what’s going on with these kids,” said WLL President Darren Chonos.
At the opening ceremony, Chonos praised Raney, who could not attend the ceremony but called Chonos before opening day for information on the league’s progress, and Peasley, who threw out the first pitch to officially open the season.
Peasley, who published the league’s magazine, “Play Ball,” for the last 49 years, will hand over control of the publication to Tammy Baier but will still assist in its production.
“It’s amazing he has been doing ‘Play Ball’ for 49 years,” Chonos said. “It’s like a high school yearbook.”
Chonos said this year’s edition will include tributes to both men.
With the season officially underway, the 33 teams of about 360 players were ready to take the field.
New this year is the Challenger Division, established for children with mental or physical disabilities. The Challenger Division, with four teams and 32 players, will have its official opening ceremony May 6.
Chonos said the league is hoping the good spring weather will lead to better play and the weather will hold up.
“A lot of our teams got out and started practicing the middle of March, which was a nice change of pace,” Chonos said. “We’re hoping for good weather. Last year was brutal. Maybe this year will be that much better.
“I’ve seen a lot of excited kids so far. We’re hoping they all come out and have an enjoyable season. We’re looking for the kids to come out and play good baseball since they’ve had more practice.”
This year will mark the second full season for the 50/70 Division for 11- and 12-year-olds. The 50/70 Division uses 50-foot pitching distances and 70-foot base paths.
Chonos said the league is in talks with Little League International about hosting the Little League World Series for the 50/70 Division. The hosting would start in 2013. According to Chonos, District 13, of which WLL is a part, is the biggest 50/70 Division district in the country.
“We are pretty excited,” Chonos said. “We’d have games on ESPN and we would have teams from all over the country.”
Chonos noted a team from Woodstock or another town in the district would get an automatic bid to the World Series.
“It would be an awesome opportunity for kids in this area to play on TV against kids from around the country,” Chonos said.
WLL should have an updated status on the 50/70 Division World Series sometime in May.