BATESVILLE — Baseball superfan Faron Blessing has worked his way up the ranks to become the Ohio Valley Region state commissioner for Indiana.
The Batesville man has been involved with the youth baseball program here for nearly 23 years.
Before moving from Point Pleasant, W.Va., in 1989, Blessing was one of the league directors there and coached his oldest son, Brandon. Brandon continued to play in the Batesville youth program while his dad assisted with coaching, then joined the board in 1992.
“Almost every league has grown in the range of two to four teams, 24-40 kids, over what it was initially when I started. There were a couple of major changes that we implemented while I have been on the board.”
One was “changing the player uniforms to actual Major League team replica uniforms. They cost less for the league, plus the joy and pride the kids had the first couple of years was something you’ll almost never forget. When the kids were talking and thinking they were actual players from their favorite teams, it was great. Most grown-ups wouldn’t think it was such a big deal, but it was so gratifying knowing that you somewhat made a difference,” the Batesville resident reports.
“Another major milestone ... was getting the Batesville baseball program chartered with the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken organization back in the fall of 1997. This move allowed the various Batesville league all-star teams the chance to play in the National Sanctioned Tournament Trail very similar to the Little League World Series you see on TV.”
He served as the Southern Indiana Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken District 4 commissioner for several years. “Then, due to the growth of Babe Ruth chartered leagues throughout Indiana and the fact this state had a much greater number of chartered leagues and teams than most other states in the Ohio Valley Region,” Indiana was split into three separate regions, northern, central and southern.
The Southern Indiana District 4 leagues were moved into Central Indiana Babe Ruth Region 1, which encompasses 24 counties, including Franklin and Ripley. “I was asked to remain as the (Central) district commissioner, which I did.” This region is made up of around 45 different leagues and about 750 teams.
“Then the following year, I was asked if I would be interested in taking over as the state commissioner.” He must be appointed for each two-year term by the Ohio Valley Regional Commissioner with approval by the Babe Ruth organization. “I believe I could stay in this position as long as I want,” Blessing announces.
His responsibilities include: recruiting and retaining district commissioners; selecting and setting district and state tournament sites and dates; setting tournament contract fees; visiting and providing presentations to potential new chartered leagues; assuring and approving the required documentation for league all-star teams so they can participate in district and state tournaments; purchasing state and district tournament team and individual awards; making unscheduled visits to host sites during state tournament dates to determine if all needs are being met; attending Ohio Valley Regional State Commissioners’ meetings to report tournament outcomes, outline changes and plan for the upcoming season; and holding quarterly Central Indiana District commissioner and board meetings.
Even though it’s a lot of hard work being involved in youth baseball programs, the former Batesville league president reveals it’s very rewarding. “Just being able to see how the kids’ baseball skills and abilities change drastically from season to season. They mature from being a kid picking dandelions, chasing butterflies and running the bases the wrong way when they hit the ball in T-ball to making the Babe Ruth and/or Cal Ripken state tournament teams and then continuing their baseball career by making high school or college teams.”
Last year, a big all-star event, including games and an award program, was held in Jasper. Over 300 players and their families were invited to a ceremony, “where we individually recognized each and every selected all-star player with a program, pin and plaque.
“Just watching these kids during the games and as they were called to the podium to receive their awards is very rewarding and satisfying because you can think that you make a difference in their lives.”
The state duties keep Blessing busy, but he is still involved in the local league. “I still sit on the board as past president and purchaser for the player uniforms and equipment.
“My grandson Preston is currently too young to play T-ball. So, there is a high probability that I will be back into coaching again once he is eligible to play.”
Diane Raver can be contacted at 812-934-4343, Ext. 114; or diane.raver@ batesvilleheraldtribune.com.