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Youth baseball season kicks off

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Feb 17, 2021

Nolan Dewald dives into home plate for the North Fort Myers 10U Babe Ruth baseball team against the Hancock Pirates on Saturday during Hancock’s opening day at Kurt Donaldson Park. Michael Taunton is there to receive the late throw. CHUCK BALLARO


Hancock Babe Ruth baseball season opened at Kurt Donaldson Park on Saturday, something that many thought might not happen this year.

It was a soft opening of sorts for the league, as the 10U Pirates had not received their uniforms yet and played in plain white T-shirts against North Fort Myers Babe Ruth’s Pirates, which hadn’t officially started their season, but had their uniforms and were playing.

Hancock Babe Ruth left Little League in 2020 so they can recruit players from outside their very small area on the North Fort Myers/Cape Coral border.

Like North Fort Myers, it has taken a while for its league to take hold, with only about 75 players expected to take the field on six teams, with two 10U teams, making interleague play a necessity, which will give the kids a taste of travel ball.

Both leagues are preparing for changes in leadership. Nate Sund will take over as North’s new league president, while Sandro Feliciano is preparing to take over for longtime president Brian Porvaznik, who has run the league for the past 13 years.

“We’re in transition. Brian will still be around in some capacity. He has a wealth of knowledge and has been here for years,” Feliciano said. “My availability will let me be able to do a lot more.”

Feliciano said the change to Babe Ruth, with its more liberal rules, will help the small program recruit players from outside its small area.

“We aren’t restricted to one particular area, so we can get kids from different areas and get more kids out here,” Feliciano said. “We’re down this year, but we’re hoping to build back up. By fall, I want to build up to 10 teams.”

North will hold its opening day this Saturday, and is expecting a turnout more than double of Hancock’s. As of this weekend, there were four T-ball and 8U teams. Three 10U and 12U teams and two 14U teams filled out, with more players on a waiting list.

More teams are making the switch from Little League to Babe Ruth, Feliciano said. Fort Myers American and South Fort Myers have also moved away from Little League, which Punta Gorda did years ago.

“The restrictions were the biggest thing. Being able to get more kids and all the rules in Little League, which with all the competition with travel ball and Little League, it was hard to get kids to participate. The rules are more competitive. The older kids can take leads and steal bases,” Feliciano said.