Little League officials are setting the stage for what they hope will be a very successful 2004 youth baseball season.
First on the agenda for new president Chuck Barton and other program officials is to register potential players.
Youngsters --ges 7 to 15 years as of July 31, 2004 --nterested in participating in the spring and summer league should sign up at one of four scheduled registrations.
The first will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10.
Others will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 14, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 24.
The final chance to register is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 31. All sign ups will be held at the Payson Police Department.
When registering, players should bring their birth certificate. The fee is $40 per player. There is a discount available for families who have more than one youngster participating in the program.
At the registration, officials also will be accepting applications for team managers and coaches.
This season, Payson is scheduled to field teams in four age/ability leagues -- farm, minors, majors and seniors.
Last year, Payson had five farm teams, six in the majors and minors and four in the seniors.
Only the senior league failed to function efficiently last season. Several senior games had to be canceled because of lack of players. Barton said he was unsure what the trouble was, but says he hopes the seniors can field a competitive league this spring.
The senior league is made up of players 13 to 15 years. Youngsters 11 to 12 years normally play in the majors league. The minors league is open to players 9 to 12 years, but most are either 9 or 10. Seven- and 8-year-olds play in the farm league where coaches, rather than players, do the pitching.
Any player who was on a major league team last year will return to that team. Players moving up an age/skill league or new to the program must participate in tryouts.
Following the tryouts, minor, major and senior coaches draft players to their teams. The farm league does not draft.
This season, Tracy Purtee will serve as the Little League chief umpire.
Barton anticipates play will begin in mid-April and continue into June.
For more information, call Barton at (928) 468-1711, or Little League vice president Mark Frantzke at (928) 474-2746).
Fans hope that Barton and his highly dedicated group of volunteers can somehow help recreate the baseball magic of last summer, when the winning ways of the Payson Major League All-Star team captured the attention of our community.
After winning Payson's first-ever region and area championships, the team advanced to the Arizona State Little League Finals in Gilbert.
Undaunted by the 100-plus degree desert heat, the Cardiac Kids, as they were known, posted a 3-3 state tournament record and finished third overall. That was a tremendous accomplishment considering the Payson stars were pitted against the best the state has to offer, including teams from Phoenix and Tucson.
Many of those all-stars will be moving next season from the major to the senior division. That means a new crop of players will have to step up if the majors are to make a second successive run to state.