DUNWOODY, Ga. — When DeKalb County School administrators announced that high schools would not be fielding ninth grade teams this spring, Matt Boettcher decided to take matters into his own hands.
His son, Blake, had tried out for the baseball team at Dunwoody High School, but didn’t make the cut for either the junior varsity or varsity squads. It looked like Blake would have to wait for a couple of months to play again. With the cancellation of the season last year because of COVID-19, it would have meant two years without organized baseball for many players.
“In baseball terms, these kids who didn’t make the team got thrown a curve ball, and they needed to figure out how to hit a curve ball,” Boettcher said. “That’s when I started thinking about how we could make sure that they could continue playing the sport they enjoy.”
Boettcher reached out to coaches from area high school teams, as well as Dunwoody Senior Baseball officials about carving out some practice and playing time.
Dunwoody Senior Baseball President Jay Kapp said the league, which plays on two city-owned fields on North Peachtree Road, found some open slots on Fridays and Sundays, and offered the fields to Boettcher.
“I told Matt, ‘You’re the commissioner and the head coach, and if you can find the players, we will supply you with umpires, baseballs and jerseys,’” Kapp said.
With that commitment, all that remained was finding enough players to field two teams. With help from parents Jim Davis, Matt Ashby and Josh Neel, Boettcher recruited about 20 players from Dunwoody High School, Marist School, Riverwood and St. Pius X who wanted to participate in a mini season. The format is casual with practices on Fridays and games on Sundays.
“We try to put a fun twist into the games,” Boettcher said. “Each week, we mix it up so that kids play on different teams, and we try to give a little prize for the winning team. The energy is good, and the attitude is good.”
Boettcher’s son, who plays second base and pitches, said he thinks the league has been a positive experience for everyone.
“Just being able to play a fun game with your friends is really great,” Blake said. “We are working on our skills and getting better and better. I think we will be on an even playing field (with the high schoolers playing baseball this spring) next year.”
Neel credits Boettcher’s tenacity in making the league happen.
“When DeKalb County took away ninth grade sports this year, it left a lot of players in a tough spot. The credit goes to Matt for making all this happen,” Neel said. “These players are enjoying the competition and getting better at baseball.”