North Tulsa hopes for baseball rebirth
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2011
3/11/11 at 6:49 AM
Chris Elmore grew up in north Tulsa, where he played and fell in love with the game of baseball.
Today, few young people in his boyhood community share his passion for the grand old game, and Elmore knows it.
That doesn't mean he likes it or accepts it.
In fact, he's determined to change that reality.
On Saturday, Elmore will host a kickoff picnic and registration session to promote the reopening of the North Tulsa Baseball League.
The picnic and league games will take place at O'Brien Park, 6149 N. Lewis Ave.
"I wanted someone to give these kids a chance to play baseball, and that someone ended up being me," said Elmore, who grew up playing at the park. "I thought, these fields are in north Tulsa, they should be used by north Tulsa."
The North Tulsa Baseball League was established in the mid-1990s by the Tulsa Metropolitan Urban League, Neighbor For Neighbor and the Tulsa Drillers baseball team.
Early on, games were played at the Youth Ranch on Osage Drive.
"We started out with T-ball and kids-pitch, and it just grew from that point," said Mark Hilliard of the Drillers.
The league eventually flourished, outfitting in its heyday enough boys and girls to field 48 teams.
But in recent years, participation has waned, and last year the league was virtually nonexistent.
This did not go unnoticed by Richard Bales, who, as Tulsa County's parks director, oversees operations at O'Brien Park.
"It did not look like it was an adequate usage of the facility," he said.
To rectify that, Bales made a call to Elmore, who had expressed interest in helping with youth baseball at the park.
"As soon as I made the call, he said yes," Bales said.
Elmore, 33, knew from the start that revitalizing the league would be a challenge.
But over the last few months, through visits to schools and other registration/workout sessions at the park, word has gotten out and registration numbers have begun to grow.
More than 100 young people ages 4 to 14 will play in the North Tulsa Baseball League this year, including a few girls, Elmore said.
"It's been good," he said. "I knew it was going to be a challenge, because I know most of the kids, and the kids' parents haven't thought much about playing baseball."
Elmore's other challenges have been more tangible, what he calls the "three strikes" against the re-incarnated league: a lack of money, a lack of equipment and a lack of training for the players.
As the start of league play approaches, those concerns have diminished somewhat.
Funding from the Drillers will pay for uniforms and scholarships for those who cannot afford the $50 registration fee.
Balls, bats and gloves are being donated by various groups, and Elmore is working to recruit high school and college baseball players to serve as instructors.
Bales said the county is excited to be an active part of the league, especially because it's being run by a man such as Elmore.
"We always wanted someone from the community that had a real feel for baseball in north Tulsa," Bales said.
North Tulsa Baseball League picnic
What: The North Tulsa Baseball League is hosting a picnic to promote the reopening of the league and to register players. The instructional league is for boys and girls ages 4 to 14. It will include T-ball, coach-pitch and kid-pitch programs. The registration fee is $50. Scholarships are available. Volunteers and potential umpires are encouraged to attend.
When: noon-2 p.m. Saturday
Where: O'Brien Park, 6149 N. Lewis Ave.
For more: Chris Elmore, 918-695-4918 or email@example.com
Original Print Headline: Youth movement
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
Chris Elmore, who grew up in north Tulsa, is reviving the area's North Tulsa Baseball League. "I wanted someone to give these kids a chance to play baseball, and that someone ended up being me," said Elmore, who grew up playing at O'Brien Park. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Chris Elmore will host a kickoff picnic and registration session Saturday to promote the reopening of the North Tulsa Baseball League, which was established in the mid-1990s. CORY YOUNG/ Tulsa World