By Rachel Gross
Since 1960, the Dallas Chamber Baseball League has been an outlet for children ages 6 to 16 to learn about baseball, make new friends and have fun. Each season, these 1,500 kids develop the principles of sportsmanship and team play.
The league consists of a spring/summer season and a recreational fall season, and includes 102 teams of 13 players. There are five divisions: the C League for ages 6 and 7; B League for ages 8 and 9; A League for ages 10 and 11; AA League for ages 12 and 13; AAA for 14 and above; there is machine pitch for kids ages 10 and under.
Jerold Prager, director of operations, has been with the league for 30 years after retiring from the construction business. He said the main objective is for kids to have fun.
“They are looking for something that will fit for them where they can make friends,” he said. “We are flexible and allow them to play other sports. This trick is to get them with us when the are young, at 6 or 7-years old, so they can learn skills and teamwork.”
The regular season begins in April, but teams begin playing games in March, and runs through the end of June. Although a majority of the players are from North Dallas, the league attracts kids from Richardson, Plano and Carrollton as well.
Originally affiliated with the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the league is now funded by registration fees. A typical season costs about $150-200 per player, with each game the price of a movie ticket. There is an optional tournament at the end of each season.
Another unique aspect is how kids are placed on teams. When a parents calls saying their child is interested in playing, Prager gives them the number of a coach for that age group and the coaches build their own teams.
This, along with flexibility and convenience, is a winning combination.
“I have some coaches that try to build the 1927 Yankees, and I have some that want to have a fun team,” he said. “Games are played everyday of the week; it’s convenient and people like that. We are one of the few groups that give kids the opportunity to be flexible with their schedules. We want them to play.”
Prager added that the game of baseball is both mental and physical and he hopes players are able to develop both. He said he most enjoys seeing generations of families play in the league.
“This is a learning process and practicing is important,” he said. “I like seeing these kids. All of my kids played and enjoyed it. There are great parents who have been with me for a long time. People who have played are now coming back with their children and grandchildren.”
Jerold’s son, Howard, coaches the Division B Cardinals and has been coaching for three years. He played in the league as a child as well.
Prager went on to play professional baseball for seven years with the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals. He wanted to coach so he could contribute his knowledge and give back to a league that allowed him to follow his dreams.
He teaches his players the fundamentals of the game and how to think about strategy.
“I try to make them think about what to do once the ball is hit,” he said. “These kids are only 8 and 9-years-old, so I keep it basic and let them have fun. It may make them learn something and want to keep doing it.”
He added that the most rewarding part is seeing their faces after they get a hit or make a good play knowing he has made an impact.
“I like seeing excitement on kids’ faces when they’ve done something good, or when they make strides and improvements,” he said. “It’s a sense of accomplishment.”
Marc Andres has coached the AAA Storm. For the past five years, he’s coached 12, 14, and 16-year-olds.
Andres said baseball teaches kids life skills for the future. He believes it’s important for them to learn about morals, ethics and sportsmanship.
“Baseball teaches you how to deal with people and adversity,” he said. “The fundamentals are important, but also the teamwork part of the game and staying positive is crucial. As things get more competitive, it’s easy to forgo the sportsmanship, but we have to remember they are kids.”
He added that with older players, he teaches more about the nuances of the game, since most already know the fundamentals. He hopes his players can implement what they learn and be successful.
“I hope they have a great experience and understand the game of baseball,” he said. “I want them to have a better idea of how it’s played and appreciate it better. This league lets them create relationships with teammates and coaches and they make memories.”
For more information, visit www.chamberbaseball.net, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 972-738-9900.