It’s been too quiet around Softball Valley for facility manager Hank Stoffer.
“Last year we played from June to September, the year before we had nothing,” he said. “We normally have 300 people a night down here so that was a pretty big shock to the system.
“We built this park for people from Lethbridge to come and play. So it was almost heartbreaking to come down here and see it sitting empty.”
In 2021, less than half the usual number of teams took to the field at Softball Valley.
This year, with pandemic health restrictions remaining consistent and relatively relaxed well ahead of the season, roughly 100 teams are signed up for the summer. That’s similar to pre-pandemic numbers.
“Our mixed league starts last week of April, and we will run until the end of September or first part of October,” Stoffer said. “Main leagues are done by middle of August. We’ve got lots of tournaments booked this year, so it’s going to be a full bore season.”
Lethbridge Little League is also anticipating a bounce-back season.
“Registrations have really climbed this year compared to the COVID-19 years,” president Travis Oberg said.
Nearly 800 kids are registered for 2022, a seven-year high.
Last year, participation was only two-thirds of Little League’s current numbers. The organization is seeing an increase, particularly among the younger age groups, between three- and seven-year-olds.
Oberg said everyone from coaches to players is feeling extra enthusiasm ahead of a schedule that has minimal disruption.
“It’s really exciting to be able to get the season started on time and get our normal programming going, without any interference from what’s happened the last two years,” Oberg said.
As the countdown to the season continues, there’s still plenty of work ahead to get Softball Valley’s fields game ready, but Stoffer said he can’t wait to play ball.
“It’s going to be nice to see people back again,” he said.