The Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Board is considering whether to lower the age for travel baseball programs in its associated booster clubs.
Tuesday night, members heard debate from parents requesting a change to start at age 8 and from staff wanting to hold steady at 9 for the more competitive league.
County booster clubs work with the parks for field space and run youth baseball programs. Clubs currently have a recreation league and a travel baseball program, which ramps up the level of competition and the intensity of the practice schedule.
Starting at 9, players are eligible for either recreation or travel. A mid-level alternative called “premier” exists only for 8-year-olds.
A similar discussion on starting age took place 10 or 11 years ago when the county launched travel baseball, said Wayne Maddox, manager of the department’s athletic division.
He recommended travel for ages 11 and older at the time, but the county set it at 9, where it has stayed.
Maddox encouraged the board to consider the county’s goal as a department when deciding whether to lower the age.
“Our mission statement says nothing about building Major League Baseball players or any world champions,” he said. “I think we’re here to provide recreation to the 60 or 70 percent of kids who are never going to play high school baseball or beyond.”
However, the popularity of travel baseball for 8-year-olds has grown without the program offered at the county, according to members of the Central Park Athletic Association.
All county booster club boards voted in favor of lowering the age, said Greg Blitz, president of the Central Park group.
Kids are either joining independent leagues or seeking travel programs outside of the county and often not returning, Blitz said. He added that he doesn’t have a son that would be affected by the matter and was only relaying what he’s heard from families.
“These parents want this,” he said. “If the parents want this, it’s already out there. And Forsyth County doesn’t need to be on the back side trying to look at what other counties are doing. We need to get on the bandwagon here.”
Several other parents involved with the Central Park program also spoke in favor of lowering the age.
Parks board Chairman Todd Holbrook said the panel would spend the next month researching the issue and revisit the matter at its Dec. 10 meeting.