Fallball comes to Anchorage junior high schools.
A short baseball season will begin Labor Day with a full-school jamboree, followed by three straight Saturdays with doubleheaders.
Organized by the Alliance for the Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska, the exercise begins in August. 19 at each school, and all matches are played in September, with most taking place at Kosinski Fields.
Baseball and softball became options for Anchorage School District junior high schools in the 2018-19 school year, when both debuted as spring sports.
There were no seasons the next two school years due to the pandemic, but they are back for 2021-22 – and this time baseball will be an autumn sport, while softball will remain a spring sport.
Steve Nerland from the Alliance said that principals at the upper secondary school asked about the possibility that one of the sports would move to the autumn to ease the requirements for gym and field time for the spring, when hundreds of upper secondary school students participate in athletics.
“So we chose to move baseball to the fall,” Nerland said. “The weather is really better in September. The other advantage is the availability of high school teams to work with their maternity schools. ”
He said that high school coaches can help with the junior high school teams – and so can players in high school.
“As long as an adult (who has passed a) background check is there, high school players can also offer training,” Nerland said. “We will take advantage of that this fall.”
Baseball and softball are both outsourced activities, meaning they are run by organizations other than the Anchorage School District. The alliance runs baseball, and the Anchorage Sports Association is responsible for softball.
For the Alliance, sponsoring baseball in junior high school is an investment in the future. The points are retained, and each match will have a winner and a loser, “but these are not hard-core high school players to play in the pouring rain,” said Nerland.
“We try to get them interested and have fun,” he said. “Eighth graders can play on Legion JV teams, so that’s our hope.”
The diamond is smaller than in regulation baseball – 80 feet between the bases instead of 90 feet; 54 feet between the pitching mound and the home plate instead of 60 feet, 6 inches. Throws will be limited to 80 seats per day.
In the spring of 2019, the baseball program at the junior high school attracted enough players to 17 teams, which means that some of the district’s 10 junior high schools fielded more than one team, Nerland said. The softball program featured 10 or 12 teams, he said.
By having separate seasons, girls will be able to compete in both sports.
“We want girls to play too, so maybe some of the softball girls who may not have anything until the fall can be out there,” Nerland said. “We have already registered some girls.”
Middle school students can register at alaskalegion.com. They are required to get the same athletic physicality required by students participating in the sports in the Anchorage School District, and that the papers should be handed in at the school.