Oak Hill couple’s love of baseball ignites fire for youth league
OAK HILL — Erin Anderson has fond childhood memories playing baseball in New Smyrna Beach.
Now Erin and her husband Don want to bring the same joy to the children of Oak Hill. To this end, the couple created a sports league for young people.
“There hasn’t been a youth league in our city for over 20 years,” Erin, 47, said. “I was a kid the last time I remember Oak Hill had a little league. I want to bring back that parks and recreation ball we all grew up with and the memories we had.
Erin and Don Anderson launched the Oak Hill Sports Club for kids ages 4-12 in 2020.
“I remember my husband and I on our opening day last year, seeing what we accomplished in a few months. Seeing the kids in their baseball uniforms, we just looked at each other and started to weep.
“Two birds with one stone”
The couple moved to Oak Hill from New Smyrna Beach after getting married in July 2020.
“Before moving to Oak Hill, (Don) was a (Little League) coach for over 16 years,” Erin said. “When we moved to Oak Hill, I didn’t want him to drive to New Smyrna Beach to coach anymore. I started working for the city of Oak Hill, that’s when I noticed that “there was nothing to do here for these kids. I thought I could kill two birds with one stone by bringing a sports league here and having my husband as a coach.
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In August 2020, Erin took to social media to spread awareness about the league.
“I posted a post on Facebook and said, ‘Hey! Would anyone be interested in a free baseball clinic,’ Erin said. “In our clinic, we had five kids. next day I went back to Facebook and said, ‘I need help. Can someone donate gloves, bats, shoes? We’re going to have free baseball clinics.'” We did this every weekend. Over the weekends, the club began to grow. We ended up with about 22 children. “
Erin said the next step is to come up with a name for the club.
“I didn’t just want to focus on baseball,” Erin said. “I wanted to be able to expand it. So we named it Oak Hill Sports Club. In this way, in the future, we could introduce more sports like football, flag football and basketball. In February 2021, we decided to see if we could get enough kids interested in joining a spring little league.
“It grew quite quickly”
Don said that with the number of children showing interest in the club, the couple were able to create four Little League teams.
“Last spring we had about 45 to 47 kids,” Don said. “We basically had 45 kids to start the spring Little League season last year and now we’re over 85 kids with 10 teams for this season. He grew up pretty quickly. The support we receive not only from families and children, but also from the community is overwhelming.”
“Every child can play”
“It costs $40 (for the season) to play,” Don said. “But we don’t turn anyone away. We have community sponsors who pay the fees to make sure every child can play. We’ve raised children and we’ve had the trials and tribulations of competitive sports. So we took a decision from day one, we weren’t going to be affiliated with leagues like the Little League World Series, we’re just going to keep it recreational and fun.
Don said the town of Oak Hill stepped in to help.
“The city is not only allowing us to use land, but has applied for and been approved for a $140,000 ECHO grant to improve our field for next season. So it’s really exciting.
Oak Hill City Administrator Kohn Evans told the News-Journal in an email: ‘The success of the Oak Hill Sport Club is recognized. The city is pleased that citizens have rediscovered the parks So, after a successful season for the club, the City commission unanimously agreed to pursue an ECHO grant with Volusia County, for the Mary DeWees Park baseball field for $285,785 with the city responsible of $144,893.
“The Oak Hill Athletic Club has since approached the City Commission and they expressed their dreams for more sporting and other events for the community and the commission responded by approving the continuation of the property north of Mary DeWees Park and creation of a city Parks master plan for the entire city ECHO grant for baseball field is approved ECHO grant for purchase of north property is being processed Oak Athletic Club Hill is growing and the city is here for it!”
“The best thing for them”
Longtime Oak Hill resident Paula Cleaves heard about the baseball clinic through a Facebook post. His son, Phillip, 12, is now playing in the league.
“There’s nothing to do here for these kids,” Cleaves, 51, said. “I was brought up here. It’s at my house. I live literally four blocks from where I grew up. I played ball on both courts here. I was the only girl who played on the boys’ ball team.
Tim Morton, an Oak Hill resident for 12 years, says his 9-year-old son Kane is thrilled to be able to play baseball.
“It’s a great thing for this city,” Morton said. “When I was a kid I played in New Smyrna Beach and they haven’t had a league since I was probably in middle school. It was the mid to early 90s. Most kids want to play on computers all day. I think it’s the best thing for them.
For more information about the program or to donate, please visit Oak Hill Sports Club at oakhillsportsclub.com or call 386-314-5734.