The Tinley Park Bulldogs youth baseball organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary in operation this summer, and though the organization soon could be applying for its AARP card, the Bulldogs are showing no signs of slowing down.
In fact, this year the Bulldogs saw a record number of children sign up to play in their baseball, softball and travel league divisions. They now have more 1,000 participants throughout the organization.
With a strong bond between families on every team, Mustang league president Matt Windle and team manager John Hamilton aren’t surprised by the record numbers.
“Everyone out here has family involved," Windle said. "I have 12 kids on the team, and we’ll have 10 dads on the field with the 12 kids playing. Everyone is out there making sure it’s a good time when we practice. It’s a lot of fun to have everyone so involved.”
Windle, in his seventh season with the Bulldogs, has managed two of his sons' teams and hopes to manage a third that’s on the way. As President of the 9-10 year-old Mustang Division, Windle is responsible for making sure team managers are teaching kids the right fundamentals and making sure everyone enjoys playing on the field.
For Hamilton, a single father, the Bulldogs provided an excellent place for him to spend time with his son, Demetri.
“I’ve coached Demetri’s team’s the past two years," John Hamilton said. "It’s been a joy. I plan on coaching his fall team this year as well. It’s a great way for us to spend time together."
Hamilton first heard about the Bulldogs through word of mouth.
“We live in the area, and we’ve heard nothing but good stories about the Bulldogs, how they are family-oriented and the coaches and managers get along. It’s just a good organization all the way around,” he said.
Next year, Windle will take on the role of vice commissioner. Instead of overseeing one league as he does now, his duties will expand to overseeing every league in the Bulldogs organization.
“I love playing baseball with the kids, I look forward to it every year," he said. "The way things are going, this is a fun place to be around here."
The various divisions throughout the Bulldogs league will conclude their in-house play on Saturday, June, 25, with travel play continuing on through the summer. Championship games will be played, and a picnic with games and giveaways accompanies the trophy presentation. Like most of what the Bulldogs do, they encourage friends and family to stop by the festivities.