By Ray Hamill — It might not come as a surprise here on the North Coast, but the number of young baseball and softball players is seeing a dramatic rise in recent years.
An Associated Press story published this weekend suggests that between 2013 and 2018, the number of U.S. kids playing baseball and softball combined increased by nearly three million.
The story references annual surveys by the Sports Fitness & Industry Association.
According to the story, during that same period, participation in soccer and football declined and basketball increased only slightly.
The story further suggests that “more than 25 million kids played baseball or softball in 2018 … The number of participants in youth football — including tackle, touch and flag — was down by nearly 1.7 million over the same stretch, and soccer participation dropped by nearly 900,000.”
Concern over brain injuries no doubt has contributed to the decline in youth football numbers in particular.
This year, according to Six Rivers Youth Football commissioner Joanna Russell, the number of participants playing youth football locally has remained steady.
Youth baseball and softball has flourished here on the North Coast in recent years, particularly in McKinleyville, which has reached back-to-back state tournaments in two age groups.
The Mad River Mist, among other local programs, has also increased the opportunities for locals to both play the sport of softball and improve the level of their game.
In recent years, it seems as if a record number of high school girls on the North Coast are going on to play softball at the collegiate level.
The Associated Press story further said baseball is now the second most popular sport for kids aged 6-12, trailing only basketball.