An organization following in the footsteps of the Columbia Khoury League hopes to continue the summer tradition of quality recreational summer sports.
Due to area towns disbanding their Khoury League operations in recent years, the Columbia Athletic Association has joined District 19 for baseball, softball, rookie ball, spring training and umpire programs.
Other towns in District 19 include Waterloo, Dupo, Valmeyer, Millstadt, Freeburg, New Athens and Smithton.
“I went through it as a kid in the 1980s and 90s, and up until just recently it’s been the Khoury League,” CAA president Paul Jordan said. “When a number of local towns left Khoury League, it was tough for us to fill the schedule.”
Jordan said the CAA formed about six years ago because its organizers “saw the writing on the wall.”
As part of this transition, the Columbia Rookie League is the new baseball/softball chapter under the CAA in District 19.
“With the towns involved, it’s more like the Cahokia Conference now,” Jordan said.
Last year was the first for Columbia in District 19.
Similar to the Waterloo Sports Association, the first two levels – T-ball and coach pitch – feature enough players to field multiple teams of youngsters all from Columbia.
The older divisions, Atom (grades 2-3), Bantam (grades 4-5) and Midget (grades 6-8) for baseball and Petite (grades 2-3), Chic (grades 4-5) and Robin (grades 6-8) for softball, have teams from Columbia playing others from the neighboring towns in District 19.
Jordan said the CAA has seen a decline in registration numbers for the 2020 youth sports season, perhaps due to the move to District 19 and some associated rules changes.
“People that have been ding this for so long were not happy with some of the changes,” Jordan said. “But District 19 has been working with us and progress is being made.”
Jordan said many boys and girls opt to begin playing select baseball and softball at an early age, further cutting into the numbers.
“We lose a lot of kids to select ball pretty early,” Jordan said. “Those left in this recreational league are true recreational players.”
Typically, Columbia has 400-500 kids participating in youth baseball/softball each summer.
So far, only 330 have signed up for the 2020 season. Registration ends this Saturday, Feb. 29.
Practices start April 1, with games scheduled to start the week before Memorial Day and continue through mid-July.
To register, or for more information, visit columbiaathleticassociation.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-719-9396.
Columbia has been selected to host the District 19 All-Star Games this July at the American Legion fields.