PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth Little League is instituting changes this spring in hopes of re-energizing a league that’s lost players some over the years.Todd Lacy, the league’s new president, says the ultimate goal is simple: getting more kids involved in baseball.
“Little League in general has lost players due to other club sports — lacrosse and what have you — with kids wanting to try new things,” said Mr. Lacy, who has a 12-year-old (Kevin) and a 10-year-old (Sean) in Little League. “It seems like baseball is kind of losing out across the board. It’s hard to distinguish whether it’s a local thing or baseball in general.”
Over the past three years, he said, the league went from six teams in the major leagues down to four. When opening day rolls around April 26, however, the league expects to open with five majors teams and four minor, he said.
“We had 13 kids per major league team last year. If we drop to 11 and we have the same number of kids, we can field a fifth team,” he said.
There’s another advantage to having smaller teams, said Mr. Lacy. “The kids will have more playing time,” he said.
If fewer than nine kids are available to play, a game won’t be canceled. “We can borrow from the other team,” Mr. Lacy said. “It’s an in-house league. When it comes to the All-Stars you can’t do that.”
The T-ball league will also see a similar reduction in players per team.
“With a smaller team, there are less kids on the bench,” he said, adding that that’s important since T-ball first sparks a child’s interest in baseball. “We’re trying to grow up from the bottom up.”
The teams aren’t the only things getting smaller in T-ball.
“We’re looking at making the field smaller at that level,” he said. “Right now, the kids go out and play near a fence that’s way out there. If we bring in the fence, somewhere around 100-150 feet, it will keep the kids more engaged rather than them sitting in the outfield picking leaves.”
Eligibility requirement changes
Another significant change this year is in regards to the eligibility requirement. In the past, a player had to live in Portsmouth to play for the local league. Under the new rule, a player who merely attends school in Portsmouth is also eligible.
“If you go to school to, let’s say St. Phil’s, you can play for that town. It allows the kids to play for the friends they have from the town,” he said.
The new rule will be monitored, he said, because it may end up being more advantageous to a town like Portsmouth than Middletown, which has fewer private schools. “We’ll keep our eyes out for that,” he said.
New uniforms are also on tap for this spring, partly due to some additional sponsorship the league has acquired. “We want to see kids excited about walking around town with their new uniforms,” said Mr. Lacy.
The softball field at Glen Park has also undergone some upgrades. “It’s probably one of the best softball field in the state, and that also goes for our baseball fields. We’re still putting money into the fields,” said Mr. Lacy, noting that some club teams rented out the fields last fall because they were in such pristine condition.
The bottom line is that the league wants to get more kids out playing baseball, and plans on being more flexible with players who are involved in other sports, he said. “We’ll have games in the middle of the week as well as Saturday,” he said.
League tryouts/evaluations will be held March 22 and 23, with opening day set for April 26. Anyone who would like to register their child for Little League should click here.