By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- Babe Ruth helped more than 400 Indian River County youth ballplayers get back on the diamond this season, well, the Babe Ruth League, that is.
Instead of youth baseball teams affiliated with Little League Baseball, Vero Beach and the surrounding area has 33 teams in the Babe Ruth League, which has two divisions, Cal Ripken, for players ages 4-12, and Babe Ruth, for players 13-18.
Indian River Sports Complex, a nonprofit organization, has agreed to take on responsibilities in the new league, including maintaining and providing fields for play, said George Young, president of Indian River Sports Complex.
During last week's Vero Beach City Council meeting, councilmembers agreed to allow Indian River Sports Complex to use the city-owned Michael Baseball Fields, the stadium and the practice fields, and become responsible for paying for the utilities and maintaining the property.
They also voted to allow the nonprofit to use the Thompson Baseball Fields and pay for the utility costs there. The Thompson fields are the property of the Indian River County School District and the nonprofit will need additional permissions from them should they want to change anything, said Rob Slezak, Vero Beach recreation department director.
Indian River Sports Complex also received the OK from the Vero Beach City Council to work out an agreement to lease and move the lights, scoreboard, bleachers and batting cages from Bob Summers Baseball Field to Indian River Sports Complex's facility on 16th Street across from Vero Beach High School.
Mr. Young said there are three playable fields on the nonprofit's county-leased 11.7 acres and space to create one more.
If the county gives permission, the leased equipment from Vero Beach would be moved and used to help make that fourth field a reality, Mr. Young said.
The cooperation by the city and the county with Indian River Sports Complex has been terrific, Mr. Young said.
"Mike Zito, Rob Slezak, Joe Baird, those guys have given a lot of help in getting us going," he said.
The county has already provided funds to refurbish the lights at Indian River Sports Complex, Mr. Young said.
The baseball season is in full swing and on March 22 there will be a special tournament between Cal Ripken division teams from Volusia playing the Vero Beach teams.
"The program is going well, we have a little more than 400 players mostly from Indian River County and a few from Fort Pierce and we have 33 teams in the league. We are going strong," Mr. Young said.
Providing for girls softball is still in the works, Mr. Slezak said.
For more information about the Indian River County Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth League, visit www.facebook.com/IndianRiverCalRipkenBabeRuth or www.irccr.baberuthonline.com.