The Bluff City 11U baseball team poses with the Greater Midwest Baseball American Blue World Series championship plaque this summer. The Bluff City Athletic Club has been serving Greater Alton youth sports since 2009.
The Alton-based Bluff City Athletic Club works to allow young athletes the chance to live up to their potential.
“We want to give youth the chance to play baseball and softball at a higher level,” Tim Fahnestock said.
Fahnestock serves as vice-president and baseball commissioner for Bluff City Athletic Club. Greg Volner serves as president and Randy Anderson serves as softball coordinator.
The organization started in 2009 and offers baseball and softball competition for local youths, as it fields baseball teams from the 9 and younger age group up to 13 years old and softball for 10 and younger up to 18 years old.
The organization offered volleyball from 2008 to 2010, but dropped the sport because players were drawn to St. Louis area select teams. Fahnestock said it was a positive that St. Louis teams recruited Metro East players, as it proved the quality of players in the program. There are plans to add soccer, but no date has been set.
Looking to make the cost affordable to parents, Bluff City utilizes its nonprofit status to raise funds and reduce player costs. The organization uses fundraising mechanisms like trivia nights, pizza sales, corn hole tournaments and banner advertising.
The most important part of the organization is developing the athletes, though.
“We try to build strength and agility,” Fahnestock said. “We also try to get high school coaches to come in and talk to your kids.”
Fahnestock is the varsity baseball coach at Marquette Catholic High School, so he knows what it takes to compete at the next level.
Athletes in the softball and baseball programs engage in training and competitive play eight months out of the year. Players in both programs engage in indoor training in October and November and play games in the spring and summer. Competition concludes in July.
Bluff City softball teams made their mark this year, as the 14 and under team won 75 games, and the 18 and under team won the National Softball Association State Tournament and placed seventh at the national tournament.
In baseball, the 12 and under team went 29-14-2 and was a runner-up in the American Bluegrass World Series and the 11 and under team went 20-8 and placed first in the American Blue World Series.
“It’s been great to see kids from our organization play in high school and college,” Fahnestock said. “We want to help build the programs at Alton High and Alton Marquette. This keeps kids busy and out of trouble.”
Alton High baseball players such as Rob Tull, Ben Mossman, Adam Stiltz, Stephen Nguyen, Simon Nguyen and Eli Kanallakan and Alton Marquette players such as Brady McAfee, Jared Weiner, Colin Morse, Adam Harrison and Nick Messinger all played in the Bluff City program.
Former Alton High standout Bryan Hudson, who plays in the Chicago Cubs farm system, also played in the program.
For competition, the teams play at Gordon Moore Park and for the winter workouts, the organization plays in Alton School District gymnasiums. When it comes to coaching, fathers of players and volunteers fill the void and they work lots of hours for no pay, Fahnestock admitted.
The teams don’t just play locally, as Bluff City baseball and softball athletes have traveled all over Illinois, Missouri and Ohio. Some have played in Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fahnestock said there’s value in the travel for all involved.
“It brings all of the players and their families together,” he said. “Everyone gets to know each other: the kids, their parents and their siblings. It becomes like one big family.”
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