Teaching new generation about nation's pastime

Aug. 16, 2014 @ 12:20 PM

In the late 1960s our nation’s pastime added another member when the Hillsborough Youth Athletic Association was formed.
On what is known as Collins Field, kids walked onto their field of dreams and began the process of learning the game of baseball. “I played on that field when I was a kid,” says Donnie Dement, current president of the HYAA.
This past season, including girls’ softball and travel ball teams, HYAA, will serve some 800 youths.
Part of the Cal Ripken baseball organization, HYAA exists with the mission of providing competitive recreational athletics through mentoring, teamwork and fundamental instruction for all youth athletes. “We are supported and operated by a complete volunteer group of board of directors and coaches and parents,” Dement says of the backbone of HYAA’s mission statement.
Through spring ball and travel teams and the upcoming fall ball season, HYAA has developed into a year round activity where athletes and families can experience the joy of youth athletes learning to play baseball. “We emphasize teamwork and [camaraderie]; many of these kids will be friends for life because of their interaction in playing ball,” Dement said.
Spread among legendary fields in the Hillsborough area, Exchange Club, Collins Field, & Schley, HYAA relies on parent and coach feedback when organizing kids by age group and skill level. “We encourage fun first, then working on the mechanics,” Dement said.
Of his own experiences with HYAA, Dement is one of many alumni that played through the various leagues as a child, became a parent and introduced his own kids, and now returns to volunteer his time in addition to coaching baseball for Gravely Hill Middle School.
“For me it is so rewarding and it epitomizes what baseball should be; learning and giving back. I have the fortunate experience to be able to have played here thanks to other volunteers and now I am giving back so that kids now and in the future can play, too,” Dement said.
Support for HYAA comes from private sponsors as well as in-kind agreements through Orange County and support from the town of Hillsborough.
“One of our long-term goals will be to one day have a complex where all of our fields are centrally located with both indoor and outdoor training capabilities,” Dement said.
In a few weeks, the fall baseball season will be underway and youth from the local community will lace cleats, tighten their grip, and learn the finer points of our nation’s pastime. Thankfully, with a dedicated group of volunteers at HYAA, the pastime of baseball is well preserved.

TO TAKE PART:
Registration is open now on-line and walk-in-registration is available through the website www.hyaabaseball.org HYAA is also available on Facebook.

Have a feature or story for Jason Hawkins; contact him at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.