BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Baxter Sports Complex is getting ready to ring the bell on a new outdoor sports season and according to park officials it’s filling up fast.
Complex Manager Wes Holtkamp said the calendar is filling up fast this year with a couple events starting before the end of the month.
“I was just notified that we are the local site for the Scotts’ “Pitch, Hit & Run” national competition. That’s gonna be held on April 1 and all the kids have to do is show up,” Holtkamp said.
The event is for boys and girls ages 7 to 14 and is free of charge. Holtkamp said the event begins at 12:30.
According to the PHR website, contestants compete in four age groups 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 in a local event with the all-around, pitching, hitting and running champions advancing from each division age group. Age is determined as of July 17, 2017.
Participants compete in either the Baseball Division or Softball Division and have the opportunity to advance through four levels of competition including Locals, Sectionals, Team Championships and the National Finals during MLB All-Star Week. Those who make it to the National Finals get to be in the outfield to shag balls during the Home Run Derby.
A new sport is being offered at the complex now that two sand volleyball courts have been added just north of the concession building.
“Yep, we’ve got sand volleyball coming to town which is going to be awesome,” he said. “We have two courts and it’s all lit up so we can play all night long if we want to. And the sand volleyball will have netting all the way around it to contain the action.”
There are three nights of leagues being formed with Tuesdays being a competitive night with officiating. Wednesday will be more recreational and Sundays will be a combination of both.
“That’ll be more of a Sunday Funday kind of setting,” Holtkamp said.
Holtkamp said one of the newest ideas for this year is a Battle of Fort Madison.
“This is going to be a fun event. You sign up as a team of six and you play volleyball, kickball and wiffle ball throughout the day on Saturday, June 3. It’s a co-ed adult tournament and the winners will be determined by a point system.”
Another new flare will be a high school level flag-football league. Youth currently in high school will be able to participate in a 7 on 7 league that starts May 7.
The complex will also feature co-ed slow pitch softball leagues again this year. And the complex will be the host for Fort Madison Bloodhound boys and girls soccer home games.
But the little kids get on the fields first as the Little Tykes Soccer league kicks off March 28.
Registrations are currently still available in most leagues and you can do so by visiting the Baxter Sports Complex website at www.fortmadisonsportscomplex.com. The website is fully integrated with calendars, leagues, registrations and those interested can register for tournaments and leagues directly through the website. Advertising sponsorships will soon be available on the website for those businesses or individuals interested in continuing support of the complex and its programs. For more information, contact the Pen City Current sales and marketing team here.
Holtkamp said this year’s calendar is filling up nicely with a big jump in tournaments and events.
“We’re looking pretty full for the year. Next Tuesday is our first event and that’s the Little Tykes soccer and our first Bloodhound home game is next Thursday,” he said.
“But we still have openings. Registration for slow pitch ends next Thursday and that will begin the 13th of April. Registration for sand volleyball which starts Tuesday the 18th and that registration closes April 7.”
2016 was a great year, Holtkamp said, but 2017 has already almost doubled the events and tournaments taking place, including competitive youth baseball and softball. The complex has opened USSSA travel softball leagues and both the boys and girls leagues will play Tuesday and Wednesday night on all three fields.
“We’re full every Saturday with some kind of tournament or event from April 1 to July 22, so that’s really good,” he said.
And when the Friday workday is complete at the end of the month, music, food and beverages are available with the return of the popular Party on the Patio, on the fourth Friday of each month starting in June.
“Registrations are the big thing right now. I can always take more teams,” Holtkamp said. “There’s a limit to an extent, but we haven’t hit that limit yet this spring. Hopefully by the summer, with three fields going we’ll have a packed schedule.”