Both middle schools currently have softball teams that compete in the late winter/early spring, and parents plan to ask for baseball be added to be played concurrently with those teams.
Many of the other middle schools the softball teams compete against also field baseball teams, and parents suggest that both the softball and baseball teams could share a bus and play against the same school, splitting travel costs.
Parents and coaches point to the lack of interest in baseball in the community in recent years as a concern. This year less than 25 players tried out for the Okeechobee High School baseball team, which was only enough for one team, as opposed to a freshman, junior varsity and varsity which the Brahmans have fielded in years past.
Baseball programs being offered at the middle school level could help give kids the confidence to try out for the high school squad.
“Having a middle school sport is about the easiest way for a child to play a sport,” said local parent Stephanie Busbin. “I have experienced my child playing in the OCRA league, in school league, and also in travel leagues. It is far more convenient and far less expensive for a parent to send their child to school, and then pick them up at the end of their sport practice at the end of the day. This costs less and is easier on a working parent than OCRA and travel leagues.”
Of the 20 players on the OHS baseball team, at some time prior to OHS, at least 17 of them had been active on a travel baseball team. But not all parents have the time or money to commit to a travel team.
According to a report by the U.S. Dept. of Education released in 2005, high school athletes are more likely than non-athletes to attend college and get degrees, and team captains and most valuable players achieve in school at even higher rates.
The biggest issue when implementing any new sport in schools is money.
“We all know Okeechobee is a giving community that wants the best for our children,” explained Busbin. “There are many ways to raise money for this program, and that is something I know parents will get on board to make happen. Also, the boys can do fundraisers just like the other sports do.”
Several residents have already said they’d be interested in helping either as an assistant or head coach for the middle schools, including Bobby Williams, Ruben Guerrero, Donny Raney. Williams initiated the request to address the school board.
School Board members will hear the request during their meeting on March 9 starting at 6 p.m.