By Alicia Dziak

The air is warm, the sun is out, and ballparks all over Western New York are filled with eager fans ready to take part in America’s pastime. Whether you’re a coach and spend your time on the third base line urging players to run home, a parent cheering on your favorite tee-baller at her first up-to-bat, a fan armed with a mitt to catch that foul ball in the stadium, or all of the above, you’re sure to find numerous ways to enjoy this all-American sport.

Little League for Ellicottville and the surrounding towns began last week. The league, referred to as ECLVWV Little League, is for kids ages 4 to 16 from Ellicottville, Cattaraugus, Little Valley and West Valley, and is broken down by age group.

T-Ball, for boys and girls ages 4 to 6, is a start up league where coaches are teaching kids the fundamentals of baseball; they learn how to hit, field and run the bases. Coach Pitch, for girls and boys ages 6 to 8, features a more advanced level of baseball, where kids make defensive plays, run the bases and hit balls pitched by volunteer coaches.

Softball, for girls ages 8-12, is a competitive league for girls that follows all the rules of high school softball.

Minors Baseball is a competitive league for both boys and girls, ages 8-10. They move up to Majors Baseball for kids ages 10-12. In this advanced level of play, kids are learning good pitching, stealing and defensive play.

Varsity Softball is new to the program and is for girls ages 12-16. It’s a travel league, following the same rules as high school softball. There’s also Junior League and Senior League Baseball, a travel league baseball program that is closely based on Varsity baseball.

Participants of all Ellicottville Little League teams play in various area parks.

Ellicottville Central School’s baseball and softball seasons also are well underway. Offering modified and varsity level play in both sports, fans can get their fill of Eagles games in the next few weeks. Check out the calendar at ellicottvillecentral.com or see the schedule on this page.

Want to check out an even higher level of competition? The Olean Oilers baseball team is a summer, wood-bat development team playing in the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL), which is affiliated with Major League Baseball. The NYCBL gives college players who have not yet signed a professional contract the opportunity to develop their skills at a higher level of play, gain experience with wood bats, and be evaluated by scouts. Home games are played at Olean’s Bradner Stadium. For more information, visit www.oleanoilersbaseball.com.

How about the minors? Take the hour or so drive from Ellicottville to Buffalo for some minor league baseball featuring the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola field. The Bisons are currently the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Tickets start at just $8 for some games, and there are ticket specials, packages and special events galore. Visit www.milb.com for more info.

Finally, if you’re up for a little major league road trip, head to the closest MLB stadiums. There’s nothing quite like a major league baseball game, and the Toronto Bluejays, the Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates all play within a half day drive from Ellicottville. Bring cash for peanuts and Cracker Jacks and let the memory making begin!

It’s been a long time coming, but the long sunny days of spring and summer are here. Get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season—it’s time to play ball!