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Sliding into a new era

  • Written by Declan Harty

Hickory Hills and Palos Hills leagues get over

bumps to bring communities together

From uniforms to fields’ names, many elements around the baseball diamonds of Hickory Hills and Palos Hills have a different feel.
Though the daunting painting of Palos HillsPage-1-3-col-slide-2Chris Santoyo of the Nationals slides and beats the tag of the Indians Eric Kostiuk in a Pony League Friday in a Hills Baseball and Softball Association contest at the North Complex in Hickory Hills. Photo by Jeff Vorva. Baseball lies on the side of the South Complex concession stand still alluding to the days of two former leagues, these two long-established organizations merged and a new league has emerged as the 200-plus member Hills Baseball and Softball Association (HBSA).
Now halfway through its first season, the HBSA continues to provide the stability and foundations that were established for many years by the Hickory Hills Youth Baseball and Palos Hills Baseball Association.
“I would say considering everything, it was a very smooth transition,” said Peter Donahue, vice president of HBSA. “I think it has gone really well, we look forward to growing into the future and providing quality baseball and softball for kids so they can play at an affordable rate with their friends.”
Donahue, who is also a parent of two children currently playing in HBSA, said that despite a few minor difficulties the organizers faced in creating the new league, the transition went very well, especially with the support of the majority of the families.
Donahue and Mike Leach, a liaison between the executive boards of Palos Hills Youth Baseball and Hickory Hills Youth Baseball during the merger, said there were a few minor bumps in the road to creating a new league.
“As with any merger there were subtle differences, but it never affected baseball at all, it didn’t affect baseball or softball,” Leach said. “Most of the problems (are ones) we run into year after year in recreational baseball.”
Some of the bumps included different fees, fundraising methods and field care. Another complication that pag-4-2-coll-pitcherAlexis Baxter chose baseball over softball in the HBSA league and fires a pitch Friday in a Pony League game. Photo by Jeff Vorva.the trustees and board members of the HBSA needed to discuss was the facilities.
The HBSA now has two sets of fields. The former Hickory Hills Youth Baseball fields located along 76th Ave. in Hickory Hills have been renamed the North Complex and the Palos Hills Baseball Association fields, which were located at 78th Avenue and 103rd Street in Palos Hills, are now named the South Complex.
Both complexes have several fields and now the league must find volunteers on a regular basis for their two concession stands at each complex. Donahue also said the location of games rotates based on the number of games that

day; however, on Saturdays both complexes are typically used.
Another key difference that according to Leach needed to be addressed was the difference between Little League baseball and Pony baseball. Leach said the difference between the two styles is that in Pony baseball the ages of players are typically within two years in a division. However, in Little League baseball, players can vary in age in a division by as much as three years.
A principal reason behind the merger, according to Donahue, was the idea that many of the children who attend public school in the league will typically attend Conrady Junior High School, and the merger allows the children to better know each other through baseball and softball.
“It seemed logical for the two leagues to merge so the kids can play with their friends,” he said. “The kids are separated at the earlier levels school wise, and then they make these friends through baseball and then in the sixth grade they will all go to school together.”
The league now combines two communities with a total of more than 30,000 residents. According to Donahue there are currently 15 baseball teams and five softball teams in the league.
Leach added that the merger was based solely on numbers of players, stating that when he was a parent 10 years ago with one of his older sons in the Hickory Hills Youth Baseball, the league had close to 300 players, but more recently the league had approximately 160 players.
But despite the lower numbers of participants in the past, Leach said that he believes the merger will only help youth baseball, the community and the children to continue to thrive and prosper.
“I think it is a great thing for both towns, the kids go to school together, I think it will make a stronger league and bring the communities closer together.”