Baseball changes leave questions unanswered
Changes implemented by Hartselle Youth Baseball League’s newly appointed board of directors came under heavy criticism from a crowd of about 100 coaches, parents and fans at a meeting at Sparkman Civic Center Sunday afternoon.
League President Mark Mizell addressed three changes approved by the board at meetings in October and November 2014 as follows:
•Severed the league’s affiliation with Dixie Youth baseball and eliminated postseason all-star tournaments
•Replaced Dixie with an independent league format offering play dates on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
•Eliminated Saturday play dates for everyone except 5/6 years olds, with the idea of opening the fields for tournament ball on that day
Mizell said all three decisions, while not set in stone, were made with majority board approval in order to generate a more attractive youth baseball model for kids now participating in travel ball.
He said 450 Hartselle kids played Dixie ball in 2014 while an estimated 100 chose to play travel ball.
“Our vision is to get out of tournament ball and leave that decision in the hands of parents,” Mizell pointed out.
Play dates were limited to weekdays for all ages except 5/6 in order to make Saturdays available for tournament ball, he said. While he indicated that city teams would not be barred from playing in tournaments, he indicated that details have not been determined and that there could be an extra cost involved.
The board also decided to continue to play by Dixie Youth rules, use AHSAA-sanctioned officials and approved up to $9,000 to replace the carpet in the 13/14 and 11/12 batting cages with a rubber surface.
In a question and answer session that lasted more than an hour and a half, the board heard from more than 30 members of the audience.
Cathy Summerford questioned why public notice wasn’t given when board members were appointed.
Mizell answered that league bylaws specify that officers will be elected at a board meeting on the third Sunday in September each year. He said future meetings will be announced in the Hartselle Enquirer, on Facebook and the league’s website.
Dana Sharp, a teacher and mother of a city league player, asked, “If you don’t play on Saturday, how many mothers are going to be denied the opportunity to see their kids play? We teachers give homework, too. We expect our students to get the work done even if they play a game on a weekday.”
Jim Tapscott, Dixie Youth commissioner, pointed out that there is no rule that prevents a travel team player from playing for a Dixie Youth team.
“As a matter of fact, a team from the Muscle Shoals area, which consisted of Dixie youth and travel team players, won a national Dixie championship in South Carolina last summer.”
“In my opinion, you’re trying to be everything to everybody, and if you’re not careful, we’ll wind up being nothing to anybody,” said Jim McCoy, a former board member.
“This has not been thought out right,” added Jim Meadows, a 14-year coach in the league. “It makes good sense to postpone the implementation of the changes you’ve made and give it some more time before moving forward.”
“Phasing in the changes might be a better way,” said Justin Barley.
“This discussion has been good,” said Kirk Miller, “but I don’t feel like we’re leaving with enough answers to our questions.”
The board agreed to meet again Sun., Feb. 1, and Sun, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. at Sparkman Civic Center.