Mark Emery remembers a time when youth baseball flourished in Polk County.
There were established Little Leagues playing in both Tryon and Green Creek, with teams sponsored by local businesses and kids learning the game for free every spring.
Emery would like to see those days return, to see local baseball diamonds again packed with young players. It’s a vision that has led the Tryon High School alumnus to form the Polk County Youth Baseball League.
The PCYBL held its first official event on Saturday, a clinic at Polk County Recreation Complex. Some 30 boys and girls showed up for the session, certainly not a bad showing for a mid-December afternoon in the middle of a global pandemic.
And giving Emery, who once was one of those local Little Leaguers, hope for his efforts.
“Back then, kids didn’t pay to play because we had sponsors,” he said. “What we want to do is get back to that, to get more kids involved.”
In recent years, youth baseball in the area has been under the guidance of Polk County Parks and Recreation. The expenses of running the program have meant a yearly fee for players that last year was $70, and a shortage of players has resulted in Parks and Rec having to join programs in Spartanburg County in order to have opponents.
Emery, who has been coordinating his efforts with local recreation officials, hopes to eventually change both of those by recruiting local businesses to support the program.
“I have a sponsor program ready to go,” he said. “We want to make this as cheap as possible for the kids.
“We’re going to try to help minimize the expense. At first, we’re still going to have to play with Landrum and those teams. In the future, our goal is to be a standalone league.”
A former assistant coach under Ty Stott at Polk County High School, Emery lived in the Triangle in recent years and was heavily involved in youth baseball there before returning to Polk County in 2018. His son, Brendan, played baseball at Mars Hill.
“I’m trying to give back to where I got my start,” said Emery. “My 11-12-year old teams, we were one win away both years from going to the regional tournament. No Polk County team has done that since.”
PCYBL sponsorship packages will begin at $1,000, with tiers at $500, $375, $250 and $100. The league plans to play its games at Polk County Recreation Complex.
“We are geared toward ages four to 12,” Emery said. “When you get to 13 years, those kids are playing in middle school or getting more into travel teams. We want to focus on the younger players and give them good fundamentals.”