Little League leader helps kids shine on diamond
Last updated 6/28/2023 at 3:10pm | View PDF
"I go to Peirce Park everyday," remarked Garett Skiba.
The local dad's not on a mission get his steps in, but rather ensuring the integrity of the town's baseball program in his capacity as Hinsdale Little League president.
"If I'm not there for games, it's to work on the fields," Skiba said. "What we have at Peirce is probably one of the best complexes in the area because of the hard work of volunteers keeping it going."
Last Saturday he delighted in watching players and families fill the grounds for World Series Day, when the best two teams in each age division square off for the championship crown, er, cap.
"The winners get a green hat that's basically a trophy to wear around town for bragging rights," Skiba said.
Skiba was tapped for the top role this year, his third on the HLL board. He said season prep begins well before spring's arrival, with tasks like restocking equipment, lining up umpiring services and staging player drafts crucial to readying fields of dreams. The joy shared by all Saturday, independent of final scores, was gratifying.
"People packed the stands with balloons, and kids were watching the different games and the home run derby," he said. "There's a lot of work that the board does behind the scenes to make sure that happens. Days like that makes it really worth it."
The rise of travel programs has altered the youth baseball landscape, but Skiba is proud to report that HLL maintains strong participation.
"Our program remains healthy," he said. "I think we have over 520 participants this year, which is fairly strong."
And part of success, Skiba believes, is making room for all skill levels.
"Having kids of all abilities being able to share a baseball field together is important," he said.
A Little Leaguer himself, Skiba recalled nights - some pretty frigid ones in April - when it seemed like half the town was at the park and the concessions stand could barely keep up.
"It's a community event that is focused around the sport," he said.
Next month many of Illinois' baseball enthusiasts will be focused on Hinsdale when Peirce Park will host the 12U state championship July 22-27 for the first time. The winner will go to the Great Lakes Regional, as the hometown team did last year, a step away from the World Series in Williamsport, Pa. In fact, Hinsdale's 10U, 11U and 12U teams all captured state titles in 2022, a feat no town had accomplished before.
"That was pretty neat," he said. "Hopefully they can continue the success."
The action at Peirce starts this weekend with an 8U/9U
All-Stars tournament featuring 20 teams. Then the 12U district competition, the first step to state, opens July 5 at the park.
Needless to say, Skiba will continue his daily visits.
"It is a time-consuming job, keeping it going and making sure that everything is lined up," he said.
The sight of now-high school stars still drawn to the Little League atmosphere drives home the power of the experience for Skiba,
"They want to stay and just play catch in the outfield after a game because they miss it so much," he said. "It makes you remember how things used to be."
- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff