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For two towns, youth baseball has been a hit for 40 years Only the game's still the same after 40 years in Sykesville


SYKESVILLE -- The red, white and blue American flag danced high in the breezy evening air Friday night at Obrecht Field, home of Sykesville youth baseball.

The Dodgers were taking on the Giants in a Major Division playoff game on one field, and other fields were busy as well.

Sykesville is celebrating its 40th year of youth baseball this year. The first eight years, from 1952 through 1960, were played at the old Sykesville Elementary. Obrecht Field has been the home since.

Bill McClanahan, who today is a neighbor to the ball fields, played in the program in its first years and has coached his two sons -- Bryan, 21 and Jason, 14 -- in the program.

"We only had four teams back then," McClanahan said as he rattled off the four team's names -- Red Sox, Yanks, Terps and Cubs.

"It was the only thing we knew. I started playing with the Red Sox in 1953. My grandmother used to have to call us in well after dark."

Living right next door, McClanahan said he "has no choice but to manage," but really he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I just love baseball," he said. "It's fun working with the kids and especially seeing my boys play. Sykesville has one of the best programs around."

The Sykesville program has grown and changed dramatically since those early days, with 810 players now participating on 64 teams.

While two fields were more than enough in the early days, the program now has eight regular fields and also borrows four more at times.

The Sykesville program has four divisions for children ages 6 to 12 and two divisions of Babe Ruth Baseball for ages 13-15. The program also sponsors traveling and tournament teams for ages 6-18.

One thing which remains is the healthy competition which brings out the best in the young athletes.

"The most rewarding thing is seeing the kids get better, and better every year and knowing you had a part in it," said Marty Lookingbill, first-year president of the program and longtime coach.

"Some kids you can tell have it at the instructional level, and then there's the average player who improves and gets better every year with just a lot of hard work."

The program is planning a 40th year celebration during opening-day ceremonies next season.

And next season likely will be the program's last at its current site. The county is building a new facility for the Sykesville program, which will leave its current park after the 1993 season when the county plans to begin Obrecht Road reconstruction.

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