Players wearing uniforms consisting of blue jeans and Bloomingdale baseball team shirt as coach presents a trophy in 1974.

When the first umpire announced “Let’s Play Ball” at a small private park on the corner of Lithia Pinecrest Road and Bloomingdale Avenue 50 years ago, it launched a sports legacy that continues to present day.

The Bloomingdale Youth Sports Association (BYSA), formerly called the Bloomingdale Little League (BLL), will celebrate its 50th Anniversary by hosting a celebration event on Saturday, February 23. The morning will kick off at 11 a.m. on Field 2, featuring a guest speaker, past players, food vendors, bounce house, face painting, dunk tank and more.

In 1969, as the center of the community, this ballpark provided kids a safe place to play baseball while learning about good sportsmanship. A half-century later, it is now a county park that has grown from three fields into eight fields with 15 batting cages. Located at the corner of Bloomingdale Ave. and Culbreath Rd., there are seven fields across from the Campo Y and one field, Field 8 nestled in behind the Y campus.

“BYSA has become a community landmark,” said former player Rocco Cafaro. “The volunteers that run the park have faithfully maintained and improved the facilities over the years, and it remains a vibrant part of a thriving community. On any given weekend, the place is filled with kids learning about baseball and having fun.” Cafaro himself played baseball at these fields in the mid-late 1980s, continuing his career playing for Bloomingdale High School and making it to the 1991 State Final Four team. Now, he enjoys watching his two sons, Luca and Marco, play at the same fields since they were 4 years old.

These fields are the ‘Home Plate’ where all things happen in baseball and in life. Frank Mega is another player turned parent and board member, “BYSA is a place where kids can get away and be themselves; interacting with kids of all walks of life and share in the love of the game,” he said. “For myself, I enjoy teaching and leading the players in on and off the field lessons that will help them grow into good stewards to pass on the lessons and love to the next generation.”

Mega was born and raised in Valrico, and he started at BLL at a young age with T-Ball and continued playing for about 10 more years. After Mega attended Florida State University, he continued living in Valrico. A board member since 2013, he now enjoys watching his kids enjoy the BYSA’s sports programs.

It takes a village to be successful. As BYSA celebrates a successful 50 years, it recognizes all the volunteers who keep the fields well maintained, parents who continue to support their children, board members who make decisions for improvements and especially coaches who positively impact each player.

Proud parent Jim Delaney was another player who returned to the fields, “I played baseball from 1987-91 and it was the best place to not only play for a quality league, but to have pickup sandlot-type games with friends there as well. Now, my daughter is entering her 10th season playing.” He continues, “I drive home the importance of playing for your local community to my daughter and she enjoys playing and learning the game of softball while representing our park around the Tampa Bay area and afar.”

Please join BYSA to celebrate its 50th Anniversary on Saturday, February 23 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. It is located at 2215 Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico.

For more information about the 50th Anniversary celebration or to register your child for next season, call 684-8422 or visit http://bysa.website.siplay.com/.