By Ken Lay

Major League Baseball officially returned on April 4 and Knoxville City Mayor Madeline Rogero celebrated by announcing her affiliation with the US Conference of Mayors and Major League Baseball’s Play Ball initiative.

Rogero held a press conference at Market Square. After she addressed the media, she played a little pickup whiffle ball with the student council from South Knox Elementary School.

The Play Ball campaign strives to encourage youth to participate in baseball and softball but Rogero noted that Knoxville has plenty of adult leagues so that both adults and children may play.

“We want to promote play and we want everyone to live a healthy life,” Rogero said. “Baseball is a fun game.

“I’m also a fan of softball and my kids grew up playing baseball and softball at the Christenberry Ballfields for 13 seasons. My son played baseball and my daughter played softball and they went on to play in high school at Fulton. To say that Knoxvillians are supportive of organized sports is obviously an understatement. Baseball and softball help our youth stay active and learn life skills. It’s important that we continue to invest our time and resources to provide them with opportunities for a healthy life. Baseball and softball teaches discipline and how to take disappointment and come back.”

As part of the Play Ball initiative, Rogero invited the city’s youth to participate in the in the City of Knoxville baseball and softball commission leagues. Leagues are open to players between the ages of 4-14.

The city also announced that former Major Leaguer Graig Nettles will make an appearance at the opening ceremony of Knoxville’s Inner City Youth Tournament on April 29.

Nettles, who now resides in East Tennessee, played for 22 seasons with the Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos.

He had 390 home runs and help lead the Yankees to a World Series Championship in 1977, when we won the Gold Glove as the American League’s top defensive third baseman. He also clubbed 37 home runs during that season.

The Play Ball initiative encourages youth to play organized baseball but it also strives to have players enjoy the game at a casual level with friends and families.

Knoxville’s youth baseball leagues run for eight weeks and are still open to players from throughout the city. Nine recreation commissions have baseball leagues. Those commissions include: Bearden Youth Sports; Center City Youth Sports Program; East Knoxville Athletic Association; Knoxville Falcons Youth Athletics; Fountain City Recreation Commission; Holston-Chilhowee Recreation Commission; Knox Youth Sports; Rocky Hill Baseball and South Knoxville Youth Sports.