Summer baseball and softball in full bloom
For several decades, the North Columbus Intramural League has brought summer recreational baseball and softball to the children of the Clintonville and Beechwold neighborhoods.
Teresa Shay Tompkins, president of the NCIL board of directors, doesn't know the exact year the league was formed, but she knows it was at least 38 years ago. That's when she was playing in the league. Back then, girls played baseball alongside boys.
The girls play softball nowadays and, according to Shay Tompkins, overall participation in the NCIL is at an all-time high. This summer, 550 children -- boys ages 5 to 12 and girls ages 5 to 13 -- comprise 50 teams in eight leagues: boys and girls tee ball, boys and girls coach pitch, girls juniors, boys minors, girls seniors and boys Little League.
The games, which began June 3 and conclude July 31, are played at the Whetstone Park of Roses, Dominion Middle School, Indianola K-8 (formerly Crestview Middle School) and Whetstone High School.
While there have been some slight adaptations over the years, Shay Tompkins believes that, at its core, the NCIL is the same now as it was when it started.
"It helps keep kids active and gets them outside," she said. "But more importantly, it's the friendships. It brings the kids together."
Shay Tompkins has met many parents, players, umpires and volunteers through her association with the NCIL, but she admits her son D.J., who is 10 and currently playing in his fifth season in league, has networked more than she has.
"He recognizes more people than I do," she said.
Like Shay Tompkins, boys tee ball commissioner Sam Brown, who played in the NCIL 15 years ago, sees many benefits from participating in the league.
"There's kids to this day that I've run into that I played with in the NCIL," he said. "Those bonds, over time, you can't replace them."
Brown, a lifelong Clintonville resident, became reacquainted with the NCIL two years ago when his nephew began playing baseball. He signed up as a coach and is happy to be contributing to the league.
"I've grown up in Clintonville," he said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. It's wonderful to come back and give back to the community, for sure."
Even when his nephew outgrows the NCIL, Brown plans to continue coaching.
"I'll still keep on with it," he said. "I love the kids and I want them to enjoy it as much as I did growing up."
Members of Whetstone's varsity baseball and softball teams also have given back. On May 12 and 19, they held free skills clinics for the young ballplayers.
"This year they were City (League) champs," Shay Tompkins said of the Braves' baseball and softball teams. "They could be all high and mighty and full of themselves, but they're not. They got around the kids and they had a good time. The kids were in awe. It's an amazing thing to watch."
The highlight of the summer for the NCIL is the all-star games, which are played at the Park of Roses during Clintonville's Fourth of July festivities. The day also includes a community breakfast, flag raising and a fishing derby, among others events, all followed by fireworks in the evening.
"It's an important event," boys Little League commissioner Tim Murphy said. "It's featured with everything else at Whetstone. In that regard, it's a big deal to our league and all the kids who are involved. They get their names announced. There's a little more pageantry involved than the regular games."
The NCIL boys Little League all-star team takes on the North Columbus Sports all-stars. In girls seniors action, the NCIL Red team plays the NCIL Blue squad.
"It gives the chance for the kids to show their stuff before the community and be part of the attraction," girls senior commissioner Greg Chillog said.