The pandemic shuttered or canceled a lot of the things that bring us joy, but with tested safety protocols in place, youth sports are making a comeback.
Gulfport Little League is starting up the 2021 season, and registration for players ages 4-14 is underway. There are also opportunities for new volunteers and sponsors to support the program, and youth, parents and all in the community are invited to participate. There are lots of ways to help, both on and off the field.
The league is chartered by Little League International to serve boys and girls who live in Gulfport and St. Petersburg south of Central Avenue, with home fields in the ballfields of Gulfport. The league organizes teams by skill level and age, competing against teams from around Pinellas County starting in February.
“Competing is fun, of course, but our vision is to develop individuals as citizens and community leaders,” Gulfport Little League President Trevor Mallory says. “Under the leadership of responsible coaches, youth learn about teamwork, commitment and sportsmanship that are such an important part of their futures well-beyond sports.”
This season brings extra challenges, of course. According to organizers, Little League International issued special rules and guidelines to address the pandemic based on thorough evaluation of safety for all participants in practices, games and operations.
“The new guidelines address the concerns of this year, and we will be following them faithfully,” Gulfport Little League Vice President Maleke Fowler say. “As parents ourselves, we appreciate the importance of safety.”
After a successful inaugural year of baseball and softball in 2019, the City of Gulfport granted the league a three-year lease in 2020 to use the city ballfields and get sponsor support, like the Gulfport Merchants Chamber, last year’s All-Star MVP (Most Valuable Patron). After COVID-19 put a stop to the 2020 season, the league is ready to start again, with a focus on safety and transparency.
Gulfport Little League has modest registration fees, compared to other area youth sports, and requires no tryouts.
“We are dedicated to serving all youth that want to play,” says Fowler.
Organizers note, however, that the league’s success does require community support – through sponsors, coaches, new board members and adult volunteers.