By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
One of the first tasks assigned to the new Monticello Youth Baseball and Softball Association (MYBSA) was to appoint a commissioner.
Jon Kyte, well-known in town as the Monticello High School varsity football coach, will take the reins of the fledgling organization.
“I’m extremely excited about it,” Kyte said. “I’m excited that the council members said yes to it. Change is tough, but it’s always exciting to try something new.”
The Monticello City Council on Nov. 18 approved the association by a 4-2 vote, making the MYBSA solely responsible for all aspects of youth baseball and softball in Monticello for a three-year period.
These aspects include organization, fundraising, recruitment of players and coaches, field maintenance and concessions and more.
Some of the more visible changes that will take place for the three-year term:
• Leagues will be divided into grades preK-K, 1-2, 3-4 and 5-6. In the past, grades 4-6 played together.
“Breaking up into (grades) 3-4 and 5-6 is going to go a long way in helping with the development of our youth,” Kyte said, “and in keeping that interest up and making it fun for them so they continue wanting to play and improve on the game.”
• Monticello’s teams will play a limited number of “road games” against teams from other cities. Anamosa is currently on board, and Wyoming and Olin may be part of it as well. Current plans call for a 12-game schedule, with eight games being played in Monticello and four in other cities. The preK-K and 1-2 leagues will not travel.
“If you look around the area, pretty much everybody in a 50-mile radius is doing something like what we’re going to be doing now,” Kyte said.
“I know there is some concern about travel. We’re working out all those things. Maybe you (can be placed) on a team that has a coach who can take your son or daughter to those away games.
“I think a lot of people get that confused, thinking that we’re going to force all these kids to travel all around the Midwest. No. The league is going to include us, Anamosa and whatever towns combine with us for that league.”
• The association also plans to buy and provide uniforms and all necessary equipment.
“We have had some companies and industries come forward and donate some money,” Kyte said. “A lot of the money is going to go to build up the association funds for capital improvements of the fields, new uniforms for the kids for every grade level, equipment, as well as building up our overall account. Hopefully, down the road, we won’t have to have a registration fee for the kids.”
• A pre-season clinic will be held to help evaluate player skills, so that teams can be divided equally. “We want to see the kids, and then based on that, make it as fair as possible to divvy up the players on these teams,” Kyte said.
• A clinic is also being planned for prospective coaches, all of whom will be subject to background checks.
• The MYBSA plans to start with registration shortly after the first of the year. The association then will schedule clinics, to be held indoors at the Eastern Iowa Sports Facility, possibly beginning in February.
• Fields as the Monticello Athletic Complex will be used, along with the Shannon, Kleinow and Jaycee fields. Volunteers have made improvements to the latter three venues since last spring.
• Five committees are being formed. One will handle registration, clinics and tournaments. The other four will be for field maintenance, concessions, uniforms, and fundraising. There will also be an executive board.
“About 19 people have voiced their interest in helping out with the association,” Kyte said in November. “If anybody wants to, they can get hold of me (319-480-5642).”
Kyte was approached for the commissioner’s position after he applied to provide seasonal help for the fruit season at Minn-Tex.
“I talked to Bud and Georgia (Johnson) about being seasonal help for the fruit season,” Kyte said. “They asked me, ‘If this (the association) pans out, would you be interested?’ ”
Bud Johnson, one of the main proponents of the association, will continue to be involved.
“He’s invested a lot into the field maintenance already,” Kyte said. “He’s going to continue to be in that role.”
Overall, Kyte said, the purpose of the MYBSA is to give all kids in the community an opportunity to learn the game.
“I want to make sure these kids are developing and learning the skills that they need, so when they get to the high school level, they have those skills,” he said. “They’re not learning them for the first time as a freshman in high school, they’ve learned them all the way up.”
Kyte added that the association will report regularly to the city and be evaluated on an annual basis.
“We’ll be open to ideas and ways to make this work and be smoother, to make it more enjoyable and fun for the youth in Monticello,” he said. “It’s about the kids, and the enjoyment and development of their skills. It’s all part of the learning process for kids as they continue to grow.”