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Little Leagues merge to survive

Little Leagues merge to survive

Too many leagues, not enough players

In baseball there’s fair and foul territory. And in Little League Baseball, there has historically another type of territory, as in “this is our area, our organization, our kids.”

That may have worked when players were plentiful, but in Schenectady those days are gone. We’re glad to see that officials of the various leagues, competitive as they are, have realized this and taken to merging. It’s good for the kids, which, after all, is what it’s about.

Little League has a rich tradition in Schenectady, with Schenectady Little League, the original organization, reaching the World Series three times in the 1950s and winning it in 1954. That sparked even more interest in what was then America’s national pastime — and participation. Eventually the city came to have four different leagues; depending on where they lived, kids could play for Schenectady Little League, Northside, JC, or Bellevue. And neighboring Rotterdam, with less than a third the city’s population, had two leagues: Carman and Rotterdam.

It was fun while it lasted. In recent years the number of kids participating dropped significantly, thanks to competition from sports like basketball, soccer and lacrosse, and a new, sedentary activity: the computer. Leagues that used to have five or more teams with 15 or 16 players shrunk to a few teams with 12.

As a result, in 2008 Bellevue and JC decided to join with Schenectady Little League. And this year the Northside league, which was able to field only two teams at the “majors” level last year and had to travel to other towns and cities to get games, will be joining the others to form one citywide league. Carman and Rotterdam, two bitter rivals, will also merge.

At this point the consolidated city leagues have no intention of giving up any of their fields, which are on city parkland. That’s probably just as well from the city’s standpoint, since the leagues do a good job of maintaining them and the financially strapped city has trouble enough maintaining its other parks and properties.

But they have merged. Let this recognition of reality be a lesson to governments, school districts, fire departments and ambulance companies, which might also benefit from a merger but can’t bring themselves to give up their turf.

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