If it's summertime, it must be tournament time


Howard At Play


THE BOYS and girls of summer are in tournament time, to wit:

* Baseball: Play to decide the first Howard County championships in sandlot baseball will begin Wednesday with all-star teams from the six county youth organizations competing.

The tournament, advocated and organized as an event for rec-level players by Mike Milani, a county recreation department sports coordinator, will end with championships July 23.

The idea came out of a then-rare meeting early this year of representatives from the six organizations: AYRA Baseball, the Columbia Youth Baseball Association, the Elkridge Youth Organization, the Howard County Youth Program, the Savage Boys and Girls Club, and the Western Howard County Youth Baseball and Softball League.

Each group is entering at least one team in three age brackets: 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14. The idea is to give boys a higher-level of competition and a loftier goal than league titles.

MacGregor sporting goods, Columbia T-shirt and uniform maker Graphic Concepts and Ellicott City's Play It Again Sports are underwriting the event.

* Co-rec softball: Seventeen teams out of about 80 in the county's co-rec, slow-pitch leagues are competing in playoffs this weekend. It's a double-elimination tournament of teams that must include five women and five men.

* Men's softball: Next Saturday and Sunday, men's slow-pitch ball takes over Cedar Lane Park, where the Howard County Classic Softball Tournament will occupy four fields pretty much from early morning into the evening.

Mark Pendleton, softball co- ordinator for the county rec department, was expecting as many as 20 teams to compete, each with a four-game guarantee. Teams that survive early-bracket play enter a double-elimination format that will decide a champion Sunday.

33rd county swim meet

About 200 swimmers are expected to take part in the 33rd Howard County Invitational Swim Meet next Sunday at Ellicott City's Roger Carter Neighborhood Center.

The meet is aimed primarily at novice swimmers, those who don't typically pull down trophies or ribbons in other meets and leagues. They will be grouped, where possible, by skill level.

Meet director Jeff Taegel, a Floridian who competed at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was expecting entrants from as many as a dozen clubs.

Among them, he said, will be his own Ellicott City Seals at Roger Carter, as well as squads from St. John's Lane, North St. John's Lane, Watermont, Forest Hill and the county's largest swim league, in Columbia. Those squads include Phelps Luck, Thunder Hill, Oakland Mills, Owen Brown, Clemens Crossing and Clary's Forest.


* If county high school football teams show an improved aerial bent this fall, give some credit to Long Reach coach Pete Hughes, who helped arrange for a touch, pass-only rec league that completed play in late spring. Parents and volunteers coached players from Long Reach, Oakland Mills, River Hill, Atholton, Mount Hebron and Hammond, which had enough interest for two teams (the Air Bears?).

* Wendell Thomas and Mike Williams, longtime coaches in county lacrosse, are coaching sons in Hero's lacrosse play this summer.

* Barbara Bellamy, former longtime coach of the Columbia Association's Columbia Clippers swim team, couldn't stay away from the developmental level of her sport, either. She's coaching again in the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League.

Specializing too young?

Maybe you missed this Independence Day news item: The American Academy of Pediatrics publicized a new policy that says youngsters should be discouraged from specializing in one sport before adolescence because of possible physical and psychological damage.

Critics immediately pointed out that would have hampered prodigies such as golfer Tiger Woods, tennis star Chris Evert, gymnast Shannon Miller and swimmer Donna DeVarona, several of whom questioned the logic. Good policy or bad? Any opinions from this county, with its emphasis on achievement? Where there are, indeed, coaches and parents who channel young kids? And where kids playing a single sport nearly year-round isn't uncommon?

Parents, athletes (current and former), doctors and coaches, share your thoughts or experiences. Leave a message at 410-332-6525, e-mail us at Lowell.Sunderland@baltsun.com, or fax Howard at Play at 410-783-2518.

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