Culver Little League makes improvements, hopes to grow program

Those who recall one of Culver's Little League dugouts' untimely demise due to a powerful storm this past July can rest assured commissioners are working to replace it -- and its counterpart -- with new structures. They're also hoping to bring some new, bat and glove wielding faces to the program along with them.

Two of Culver's Little League commissioners -- Donna McKee and Crystal Keller (the other two are Bill Moise and Crystal's husband Doyle) -- brought members of the Culver Kiwanis Club up to speed on the program, and accepted two checks from the club: one for $320 toward the cost of the new dugouts, and another for $250 to sponsor a new team, tentatively dubbed the Kiwanis Cubs.

The name reflects one new trend in Culver LIttle League, naming teams after professional league squads, something McKee said the young players were ecstatic about.

McKee and Keller, who said they've been commissioners the past two years, have been working with fellow commissioners and coaches to get the program "back on its feet."

"This past year we lost a lot of kids," said McKee, "and we're hoping to get the numbers back up."

Commissioning for the leagues is "a lot of work," says McKee, noting the four also coached teams, ran concessions stands, and generally spent six days per week devoted to the program.

Among planned improvements are shoring up the condition of the playing fields on Slate Street, which are "starting to look run down." The concessions stands have been freshly painted, though it's hoped the existing stand can be converted to restrooms and a new concession building built. A pavillion to shelter audience members from the weather, and new trees planted on the outskirts of the fields are also in the works, McKee explained.

Keller noted the league hosted a number of outside teams from as far away as Mishawaka on Saturday during Lake Fest in July. Unfortunately, she said, some of Culver's Little League accommodations left a bit to be desired compared to those of other community's fields, though that didn't stop the tournament action, which went from around 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The commissioners are also in charge of Culver's softball program, said McKee, noting both the softball diamond on School Street and the Little League fields are owned by Culver Community Schools.

It's hoped Culver teams may be able to travel to other towns to play in the near future (currently, only Argos squares off against Culver teams, which otherwise play against each other).

Participants in Culver's program range in age from 4 to 15 years, including T-ball for the youngest. Around 120 kids took part last year, and McKee and Keller would like to see 150 to 160 kids in the program. That would help alleviate the problem of only three Culver-based teams in play, which means they often wind up playing the same team repeatedly, and one team is left out from time to time.

Teams also has as few as eight players on them, whereas it's hoped 11 or 12 could be part of each team.

The program could also use more coaches, Keller added.

The Little League season begin in May, though games are played from early June through mid-July. The cost is $25 per child up to a cap of $60 for three youngsters, who receive a t-shirt and hat.

And in spite of losing that dugout, and "even with the heat," says McKee, this last season was successful. She and her fellow commissioners are hoping that success only continues to grow.