Spalding County prepares for possible transition away from Little League affiliation

SHEILA MATHEWS ::: 

Spalding County children may soon have additional recreational opportunities if a proposal to move from the current Little League (LL) ball program to the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) is approved by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

“They are proposing to go from the Little League affiliation to a USSSA affiliation. Initially, they were looking at that (USSSA) for the girls’ softball program because many girls are going out of Spalding County to play USSSA softball,” Recreation Superintendent Kelly Leger said. “There are very few neighboring communities that are playing Little League softball, so there weren’t opportunities for interleague play. They were very challenged.”

She said there were so few girls still playing Little League softball in Spalding County that it was difficult to even schedule games within the Recreation League.

Leger said the current Little League board was initially considering this limited change, but that has grown in scope.

“They’re (the LL board) also looking at baseball now,” she said. “USSSA has a recreation program where every child can play, regardless of their skill level – without the extreme competitiveness attached to it, but it also has the travel and tournament component attached to it for the more competitive level.”

Leger said this will benefit not only baseball and softball players of all skill levels, but also the overall community.

“When there are no rec games scheduled, they’ll have the ability to host tournaments at our parks. As long as they were under Little League contracts, they couldn’t host tournaments other than Little League tournaments,” she said. “For the players who enjoy that, they’ll be able to play some at home. They won’t always have to travel out of town to play tournaments.”

This will bring revenue into Spalding County, as teams will pay fees for the tournaments themselves as well as shop locally.

In addition, the local baseball and softball associations will benefit financially.

“The associations will be able to raise money to keep programs affordable for players,” Leger said. “There are people in place who have a true passion for recreation ball, so that it can continue to be fun for all players.”

With that as the primary goal, Leger said she anticipates a smooth transition between the two programs.

“The fields will change very little, and they’re still going to continue to draft and do many of the same things they already are. In fact, parents aren’t going to see much of a change,” she said. “Our focus is to ensure Spalding County citizens will continue to have a fun, healthy and safe recreation program for all.”

Leger said the support for this change in affiliation has thus far been overwhelming.

The current Little League board first voted on the change, followed by all members of the Little League Association. Leger said both votes were unanimously in favor of the transition.

An informational meeting for all interested parties was held Dec. 18, and only one final step remains – a Jan. 9 vote by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. If approved as anticipated, Leger said it USSSA play will be in place in spring 2014. Ω

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