MOUNDSVILLE — John Marshall baseball coach Mark Cisar had a plan three years ago to get schools throughout the Ohio Valley to start a middle school baseball league so that players could play together in the spring and build chemistry together before heading into high school.
After a year of COVID in 2020 and schedule issues between Ohio and West Virginia last year, his plan is finally coming to fruition.
Twenty-two schools throughout the valley have started middle school baseball programs this spring in a non-sanctioned league that will still allow the athletes to participate in REC baseball, travel ball or other spring sports.
“We put this together to get kids ready for high school baseball,” Cisar said. “It’s to get them to play together. The whole idea is to get kids to play with the kids they will play high school ball with. It’s a club sport and it’s not sanctioned in Ohio or West Virginia, which allows them to play on Sunday and kids playing REC or travel ball can do both. It allows some leeway.”
There are 22 teams in the valley and each team will play roughly 14 or 15 games.
“The turnout was good,” Cisar said. “It’s a good experience and I think 22 teams will grow to over 30 next year. It also allows high school coaches to go watch and see who is coming up so they’ll know what to expect. It will be very valuable in the future for us.”
This is the first time that Marshall County Schools has offered middle school baseball and Cameron and Sherrard Middle Schools faced off on Thursday evening.
Cameron coach and Dragon alum Logan Burkett loves the idea and wishes he had this opportunity when he was coming up through the ranks.
“This would have been sweet to play in,” Burkett said. “I waited until June to play baseball besides travel ball. This is fun for the kids, it gives them reps before they go into their REC league and it will help them out chemistry-wise, too.”
Sherrard coach Dillon Mangino, a graduate of Wheeling Park, feels this is good for the future of high school baseball.
“We’re really focused on the fundamentals and development of players,” Mangino said. “We did not have middle school ball when I was in school but Coach Cisar really led this whole thing. This is almost like spring training for these guys.
“These are the guys who are going to go to John Marshall and a lot of kids are interested in it.”
Cisar reached out to high school coaches all over the Ohio Valley for their feedback and everyone seemed to be on board.
“I sent this out to high school coaches and athletic directors and kind of left it up to them to get it going,” Cisar said. “We had a meeting before Christmas break and everyone showed up and talked about the rules and expectations. We’re shooting for three games per week for each team. We’ll probably tweak it and make some changes after this first year but high school coaches played a huge part in this. I’m very pleased and we’ve received really good feedback from coaches and parents.”