Baseball/Softball Sign-Ups in Region 8: Problems Ahead?

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Sign-ups were held Saturday for Little League in Jonesboro, but several important issues face parents this summer. The most concerning issue for some parents is travel. In particular, how much it'll cost to get to the game.

"I just like baseball. I love baseball. I want to see my boy play and I grew up doing it all my life," said Russ Manning.

Manning has signed-up his 11-year old son Caleb to play Little League baseball. Manning, a fan of the Chicago Cubs, said his son is a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan. The summer long rivalry is a talking point for both of them.

"Growing up and playing baseball, and that's the thing, boys are supposed to play baseball," said Manning. "It's fun. You get out of the house. You exercise a lot. You get new friends," said Caleb.

The recent economic downturn in the national economy hasn't had much of an impact on local leagues. Parents have been registering their children for weeks, and Eddie Yarbrough said he's been busy.

"I probably field 5-10 calls a day, and the closer it gets for baseball season, the more calls I'm getting," said Yarbrough. Yarbrough helps run the Little League sign-up.

Yarbrough, who coaches his 12-year old son Blake, said most parents aren't concerned with the price of baseball programs. The registration in Little League is $35, and that covers a shirt, hat and insurance, should something happen on the field.

"The entry fees are the same. One thing we do, we are adding a 13-14 year old division to our district, so we have two teams for that division already, so that's probably the biggest change we have," said Yarbrough.

Manning said he spends $200 per season for his son to play ball.

Yarbrough said travel is a top concern for parents and coaches who may not have the money, but several coaches carpool to games that are far away, helping cut down the cost.

"With today's economy, sometimes parents have to opt for something that's a little bit more expensive. Now we don't sacrifice quality for expense. Just because we have a lower entry fee doesn't mean we're any less of a program. We have very good coaches and we play good baseball," said Yarbrough. "We play out at ASU's intramural fields, so we've got to get the fields worked on and get them leveled out and get them play ready in time. Last year we played out at the softball fields at ASU, and they didn't have lights."

"In our 11-12 year old division, this year we already have 4 teams signed up, and that's enough to play just right here in Jonesboro, but the good thing about Little League is that you can dual participate so if those guys want to go out and play tournaments as well, u-trip tournaments or any other tournaments, you can do that freely," said Yarbrough.

Sign-ups for Little League in Craighead and Poinsett counties will continue through next week and could last longer if more people sign-up.