A shortage of fields and a dwindling summer student population at SIUE has sparked a more robust partnership between the Southwest Baseball League and the intramural sports department.
Thomas Dougherty, Coordinator for Intramural Sports at SIUE, has been active in planning for the youth league to utilize the RecPlex more frequently this summer.
“We’ve had teams from that association run our field before the summer at differing levels and we saw a chance to reach out to the commissioner of the league,” Dougherty said. “Knowing how popular baseball is in the Edwardsville area, we had an opportunity with the summer months to rent [the field] out as a community partnership and to bring in some resume for the university, since many students are online now.”
League Commissioner Andy Mauschbaugh said SWIBL, which is in its sixteenth season, is the largest youth select league in Southern Illinois.
“SWIBL spans over seven counties with 162 teams,” Mauschbaugh said. “Our mission is to provide children in Southern Illinois the opportunity to learn and grow in the field of baseball, prep them for their future baseball career, and to have fun.”
According to Mauschbaugh, the league has been experiencing a shortage of fields to play tournaments.
“SWIBL has grown larger than I could have imagined,” Mauschbaugh said. “No matter what, it’s important to us that the kids keep playing …. we want kids to love baseball, it’s a great game.”
Dougherty said the league season runs from April to July, and the arrangement is a good fit for both SIUE and the league.
“It’s a great option to offer to the local [sports] community and the metro-east area for teams needing space,” Dougherty said. “It’s also good use of our space.”
Director of Campus Recreation Keith Becherer said the installation of a multipurpose turf field in Spring 2018 created an ideal place for the league to play over the summer. According to Becherer, grass fields require maintenance employees and present potential problems of game delays and cancellations during the rainy seasons.
“With a lot of the rainy conditions in the spring in this area, if they were playing on natural grassy fields, they couldn’t get games, but on the turf, as long as it's not lightning, you can play,” Becherer said. “We are getting teams that initially hadn’t signed on, saying they haven’t been able to play on a field in weeks.”
Becherer said he and Dougherty entered into conversation with Mauschbaugh about coming down on the rental rate for the field. The amount agreed upon was a fair market value that Becherer said is fair to both the league and the students who pay fees to the university.
“We’re still accountable to the students … the students pay fees, RecPlex is theirs, we’re just the stewards,” Becherer said. “But every dollar we generate when they’re not here eliminates the need to raise fees, so the students benefit.”
Becherer also said that the students also benefit in extended employment for the season.
“It allows me to keep some student employees on that might get a few hours at a fitness attendant or receptionist, but now can get additional hours,” Becherer said. “So we’re providing student employment opportunities.”
According to Becherer, initial feedback from SIUE employees, league coaches and parents has been positive and the partnership will continue next year on some level.
“[There have been] almost 60 games, you’re talking maybe hundreds of youth kids, prospective students, their parents and maybe future community leaders,” Becherer said. “It brought them to campus when they may not have otherwise been here. We’ve already started getting calls to schedule games for next year … it has far exceeded our expectations.”
Dougherty said he would be pleased to see more students participating in the activities the intramural sports division has to offer in the fall.
“When students get back in Fall 2019, students should be on the lookout for the intramural and club sports schedules so they can be involved and get on the recreational fields,” Dougherty said.