As the local Little Leagues are trying to figure out how to play some regular season games this summer, I wonder what the final effect of this pandemic might be on the bat-and-ball sports.
As of right now, some USA softball still has a chance to play this summer — the ruling body is waiting until June 1 to make a decision — but all of the Little League postseason tournaments are cancelled in the area.
I don’t want to be the harbinger of bad news, but Little League has been struggling in this area for many years. We’ve been losing divisions for many years.
My first full summer here at The Daily Item — after my senior year of high school in 1993 — there were full tournaments in all of Little League’s divisions, but now 25 years later, there are barely any divisions older than the major division teams. That is the division that plays for the chance to go to South Williamsport.
I think the prestige of the Little League World Series — and the chance to play on ESPN — will keep at least the 12-year old division of Little League alive in this area, just 30 miles south of South Williamsport.
However, what becomes of the other age groups? There hasn’t been a senior division baseball tournament in many years in District 13.
The softball issues are even worse in Little League. Danville Little League president Matt Hickey is worried about his softball teams being able to play because there are so few players that Valley Little Leagues play each other during the regular season.
We haven’t had older-level softball tournaments probably in longer than its been on the baseball side.
If we are facing a season with no Little League at all, will the kids come back next summer? I certainly hope so.
I know one of the biggest reasons for the decline in Little League is the emergence of other summer baseball and softball — USA (formerly the American Softball Association) Softball and the various travel baseball associations.
There has to be kids who want to play baseball and softball in the summer, but don’t want to play travel ball on the weekends. I wonder if Little League can do a better job of getting those kids involved after the age of 12.
Some of my favorite memories of working in the summer are from the Little League Tournaments. If more kids stay involved after 12 years of age, it would be a chance to improve the game of baseball and softball at the higher levels.