The River Valley fall baseball league hit the ground running this year, and if the start is any indication, it looks like it’ll be around for while.
The league began with 210 kids on 19 teams from T-ball to prep, and according to league organizer Danny Moore it could only get bigger.
The program is being organized through the Van Buren Boys & Girls Club with Cindy Faldon providing much support.
"The only major complaint we’ve had so far is the parents. Many of them thought they would be getting a break this fall," said Moore.
Moore helped run the fall league in Fort Smith for 12 years before being "drafted" to help start the league in Van Buren.
The season wraps up by the third week of October.
"Yeah, it was about 110 degrees when we first started, but I’m sure we’ll have some folks in wrapped up in blankets before it’s over," Moore said.
The leagues emphasizes a light schedule with minimal practices and no more than 10 to 15 games during the course of the season with the games being played on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays.
The league has attracted players from the surrounding area including Mulberry, Alma as well as Oklahoma.
For Moore and Rick Spoon, the fall league is more about the intangibles.
"This is where friendships outside a school or a town are developed," Moore said. "Brandon still runs into players and guys that he’s played with during a fall league. It’s a great way to meet new kids and make new friendships."
The way the league is structured fosters to this idea as all players are drafted to provide balanced teams.
"We want kids to jump out of the car for the last game thinking they have a chance to win a game," said Spoon. "We want that balance so everyone has a chance."
The fall league have a few added rules like making sure all the kids get a chance to bat and each one gets to play one inning. Also, a pitcher can’t throw more than two innings during a game. That prompts coaches into developing additional pitchers.
Those chances also give the kids extra time to hone their craft.
Brandon Moore, former Van Buren, University of Arkansas standout and 17th round draft pick by the Milwaukee Brewers, began playing in a fall league at the age of 9. Tyler Spoon, another former Van Buren standout, and was named to the SEC all-tournament team as a redshirt freshman, also spent many years in the fall league.
"We had Tyler out here the other day. The kids really enjoyed meeting him," said Moore. "We’re going to have Brandon out here when he finishes up with the Pioneer League.
While Danny Moore and Rick Spoon has witnessed the success of their sons, they know of other players who have gone on to play college and pro baseball. The names rattled off between the two of them was too much for this reporter to keep up.
Moore stressed that it’s not the intention of the fall league to take away from other sports that are played during the fall.
"If a kid wants to play football, he should play football. We just want to provide something for kids who wouldn’t play a sport otherwise," continued Moore.
Faldon and Moore only expect the program to grow once word spreads around the area.
Moore said, "I really think we would have had more people sign up if there wasn’t work going on (Hwy) 540 right now. There were a number of people from Fort Smith that expressed interest, but didn’t want to deal with the construction."
The players are organized into teams named after the major league organizations.
"Brandon has kept all of his jerseys from when began at 9 years old. He made it a point to try to get to a different team every year, so he could get as many different jerseys as possible. He was quite successful at that," said Moore.
The league has the field space presently at the Field of Dreams to add more teams.
"There’s also the opportunity for the older kids to play on the main field (where the Van Buren Pointers play and the past World Series has been played). That’s what they want to play on," Moore said.
Moore said the fall league is a community effort: From the volunteers, the leadership at the Van Buren Boys & Girls to Paul Dunn at the Field of Dreams as well as the City of Van Buren allowing the use of the fields during what would have been the off-season.
"This is a way for us give back to the community and do something for the kids," added Rick Spoon.
"There has been great support from the Boys and Girls club as well as huge support from the city," Moore said. "Everybody seems to be really behind this."