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South Portage Little League

All About South Portage - originally shared by Mr. John Kounelis and now added to  by  current Board

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved John Kounelis. John served on the Little League board for close to forty years in many capacities and has been with South Portage since the beginning. He spearheaded the move to our current fields in 1996 and without his dedication to our league we would not be what we are today. John will be greatly missed by many. -SPLL 2014

2019 marks South Portage Little League's 62nd Year of chartering little league with its first charter in the year of 1957, some 18 years after its birth in Williamsport, PA in the year 1939.  The first President of Portage Little League was Paul Barton.  Ten years later in 1967, Portage LL was split with one being named Portage South and the other Portage Northeast.

Portage South’s, as it was known in the beginning, first President was Elwood “Mobey” Graham.  His son, Steve Graham, also served as President for a number of years. 

In 1969, when the West side of Portage began increasing in population, Portage Northeast Little League was split and West Portage Little League was founded and chartered, thus forming the third Little League in Portage.  With the population growth continuing to expand to the West side of Portage, West Portage, by little league rules was forced to split into two leagues and two charters.  This split occurred in the year of 1992.

Portage South Little League used the baseball fields on Lexington Elementary School property until the school’s enrollment decreased forcing the School Board to sell the property in 1982.  The buyer allowed the League to use the fields in 1983, but relocation for the league was coming!  Portage Northeast was not affected since their fields were on The Upjohn Co. property.  Additional land was available from The Upjohn Co. which had to be graded for four new fields.  The Portage South Little League Board went forward with the project known as “Ball 4 in ‘84” spearheaded by John Kounelis and Bob Carnes.  The four new fields along with the 5 existing fields that Northeast had, provided enough playing fields for both leagues to continue using.  The project was completed in time for the opening of the 1984 season.

In 1994 Portage Northeast was experiencing difficult times with declining registration and decreasing administrative volunteers.  In 1995 Portage Northeast and South Portage were joined as one league known as South Portage Little League and required two charters with one Board governing both.  The two Presidents at the time were Rick Chard and Dick Tewell.  The league enjoyed two wonderful seasons on The Upjohn Co. property with over 800 registrations when the league was informed that the property would not be able to allow the youth program to continue due to the liability issues that could arise to the corporation. 

So once again, the league had to look for new property in 1995.  The “big move” was made from the Zylman complex after the 1996 season to the new site at East Centre.  The move was spearheaded by Mr. John Kounelis and many more volunteers.  The new complex hosted 10 new fields built on 40 acres of farmland purchased from the Schuring Family with funds received from the City of Portage, the Upjohn Co. for capital improvements and borrowed money to complete the project. The South Portage Little League complex is named Kounelis Park - in honor and loving memory of John Kounelis (b. 1925  d. 2014).

South Portage LL is now the proud owner of a million dollar complex.  Though maintenance and improvements never cease with a facility of this magnitude, SPLL took on a project in the fall of 2005 to provide an indoor training facility, accompanied with administration space to hold their meetings and activities during the entire year.  The building also would provide protection for players, coaches and spectators during poor weather.  The building is 48’ wide by 112’ long and 14’ at the eaves.  The building was started in 2005 and completed in 2006.  The front part of the building (40 ft) faces the existing maintenance building about 25 feet off the road and parallels the parking lot eastward.  The remaining 72 feet of the building provides space for four 12 foot wide pitching and batting tunnels fully enclosed with netting and an athletic turf floor surface to conduct various training activities.  Estimated cost of the facility was approximately $175,000.  The SPLL Board approved an $85,000 loan commitment to get the facility started.  Remaining funds have come from elsewhere such as grants, fundraising and other donations. In 2017, the bank loan was paid off, and all properties are now owned outright by South Portage Little League.

In 2013 SPLL introduced a new division to the league, Intermediate 50/70 Baseball.  In this division the distance between home plate and the pitchers mound is 50 feet and the base paths are 70 feet long. This has taken countless hours of work and dedication to make possible since an existing field had to be modified to accommodate these dimensions. In 2014 SPLL field #3 was modified to accommodate growth in the 50/70 intermediate Baseball.  However, future plans now include returning this field to serve as baseball field for Minors, Little Majors, and Majors Baseball.

Today, the rich history of South Portage Little League is obvious in the many stories of games and fun had at our fields.  We are proud that we have 2nd-generation players coming back to the same league where their parents once played.  Our fields and league are truly special - and we're proud of our heritage.  Please take a moment to take in the beauty and brilliance of our league and facilities.  Help us preserve this amazing place where sports, athleticism, teamwork, skill, volunteerism, and leadership meet - around the great games of softball and baseball.

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South Portage Little League

4801 E Centre Ave 
Portage, Michigan 49002

Email Us: [email protected]
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