Sports & Travel

Pekin Union Mission baseball, softball youth sports programs return

Each spring and summer, hundreds of young baseball and softball players grab their mitts, bats and backpacks and descend on Pekin’s Shade Park to play ball.

Parents, family members and fans watch intently from bleachers and lawn chairs, and along fences at the park’s four diamonds during games that often are equal parts competitive and instructional.

The Pekin Union Mission house and travel baseball and softball programs have been based at Shade Park for more than 20 years. After a year like no other in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sense of normalcy in the park this spring and summer. 

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“We started our games in June last year, about three months late, and less than 400 kids played,” said Mission executive director Bryan Cheek. “We had about 600 kids play this year, back to our 2019 level.

“A lot of familiar names came back.”

How many are involved?

More than 90 players were on eight Mission travel baseball teams ranging in age from U8 to U14. Those teams played from April through July.