|Adams, North Adams Softball Leagues Partner Up|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com Sports|
04:29AM / Tuesday, February 21, 2017
A partnership between two North County youth softball leagues will open up competitive opportunities for their “house” leagues and a world of opportunities beyond.
The Adams Lassie League and Northern Berkshire Softball have entered an agreement that will allow teams from each league to play against one another this spring. And Adams’ charter with Babe Ruth Softball will allow the leagues to contribute players to newly formed teams eligible to compete for chances to play in the Babe Ruth World Series.
The new partnership in part revives an old arrangement that saw North Adams and Adams teams play against one another, Lassie League board member Gary Puppolo said. The alliance makes sense for both programs.
“In our divisions, we ranged anywhere from two to three teams per division,” Puppolo said. “Every year, it’s a struggle to get kids. Both leagues are noticing the numbers of available kids are shrinking.
“We basically worked all off-season to come to an agreement that said, ‘Yes, we want the house leagues to play each other again.’ Instead of three teams and everyone plays each other 100 times, it expands the schedule.
“It should make for a more exciting and fun-filled season.”
Eric Booth from the Northern Berkshire league board agreed. The North Adams-based league typically draws around 100 players from coach-pitch through under-16. When it ends up with a three-team division, one of those teams sometimes has to sit out a week while the other two play, Booth said.
“With the population declining and the amount of other sports available now that overlap each other, the kids have to choose what they want to play,” Booth said.
“I think that the future of all this -- if you look at regionalization of high schools or even elementary schools, these towns are coming together to save money. And the sports programs are going to have to shift to do the same thing. We can’t sustain with the numbers dropping off.”
That said, the Northern Berkshire and Adams Lassie leagues are not merging. They are aligning their age groups and unifying their rules to allow teams from the two leagues to play against one another.
“There’s a sense of identity,” Puppolo said. “Adams has always had an Adams Lassie League. It’s been around for 40 years. Each area has its own identity. All we’re doing is agreeing to play each other for house league.”
And they are giving the girls from North County a travel league team that can aspire to the heights achieved by the Pittsfield-based Berkshire Force.
“Pittsfield gets a lot of press for the Babe Ruth World Series,” Puppolo said. “Now … the partnership with North Adams allows us to enter into Babe Ruth. We can pool our players and try to have some combined teams to enter into the Babe Ruth playoffs.
“Pittsfield has done a great job of promoting that. We want people up here to be aware that if they sign up for either league they’ll have an opportunity to try out for a tournament team.”
League officials do not know yet exactly what towns will be included under the Lassie League Babe Ruth charter, Puppolo said. Historically, the Pittsfield league has had all of Berkshire County under its charter, but Babe Ruth is in the process of drawing new boundary lines, he said.
“We know the core towns of Williamstown, Adams, Cheshire, Savoy and North Adams will be included,” he said.
Another unknown: Just how many World Series track teams the Lassie League will field in 2017. Puppolo said league officials will wait until after tryouts to assess numbers and level of interest -- both from a competition and fund-raising standpoint.
“Doing tournament or travel ball isn’t for everyone,” he said. “There’s travel involved. There’s hotel stays. The player fee will be more. To play on those teams, parents will have to pay a little more to do it. … Travel will be funded out of a separate pot. Once we decide who’s doing what, we’ll have to come up with a way of funding it.
“We would like to do a 10-under, 12-under, 14-under and 16-under [travel team]. If that happens, I don’t know. It all depends on numbers and interest.”
The Lassie League has a signup scheduled Saturday
at Hoosac Valley. The Northern Berkshire league is scheduling a signup in mid-March.
Booth said the leagues hope to host their first Babe Ruth travel team tournament in June.
“Traveling is nice because the competition goes up,” he said. “Our girls play better because they see it. It’s a win for the kids and the community.”
And the expanded travel league opportunity could help spur interest in the sport, which would benefit everyone involved, Puppolo said.
“This is a huge positive thing for both communities,” he said. “Those of us who have been involved in softball for years and years see the trend going on with numbers. For the two of us to come together and offer expanded opportunities for the kids really is huge.
“We can actually enter teams to compete for the the World Series. Maybe that will give an incentive for more kids to sign up. Now, we’re more than just a house league. Now, we can offer more options.”