A change in youth baseball affiliation for one town league could start a recruiting battle with another league.
The West Albany Athletic Association is leaving Little League Inc. to join Cal Ripken Baseball, which will increase the territory that the newly-renamed South Colonie Youth Baseball League can draw from.
“By converting to Cal Ripken, we expanded our league from where we only had about one-third of the South Colonie [Central] School District to where we can have the whole district,” said South Colonie Youth Baseball president Brian Manion.
That puts South Colonie Youth Baseball in the same market for players as Colonie Little League, which tapped into the two-thirds of the South Colonie district West Albany couldn’t serve due to its Little League charter borders.
Colonie Little League president Frank Prevratil said he didn’t know the full extent of what West Albany’s move would mean for his league.
“I see them maybe taking some kids from us, but I don’t see it hurting us much,” Prevratil said. “And now that they’ve dismantled [their Little League affiliation], anyone in that West Albany district that wants to play for us can now do so. We’ve always wanted to give every kid who wants to play for us a chance to play.”
Manion said the decision to switch from Little League to Cal Ripken came down to the style of baseball played. Cal Ripken Baseball – named after the former Baltimore Orioles’ hall of fame shortstop – plays its games on a slightly larger infield than Little League. The pitcher’s mound is 50 feet away from home plate instead of 46 feet in Little League, and the base paths are 70 feet instead of 60 feet. Also, stealing and leading off a base are permitted in Cal Ripken Baseball.
“It just prepares them better for the next level of baseball,” said Manion.
West Albany experimented with playing on the larger field when it established a travel league program in 2010 and started competing against other area Cal Ripken League teams. It then instituted those rules for its in-house recreational league, and Manion said the players enjoyed it. That led to West Albany’s decision to end its Little League charter and align with Cal Ripken Baseball.
“The overall purpose for this … wasn’t so much for us to grab kids from all over the [South Colonie school] district. Obviously we can expand to the whole district, but our purpose was to give our kids a better brand of baseball,” said Manion.
Prevratil said that he hasn’t heard many complaints from Colonie Little League parents or players about the brand of baseball his league offers.
“I’d say most of the people who play in our league enjoy it,” said Prevratil. “They love putting on the hat with a ‘C’ on it.”
South Colonie Youth Baseball is currently participating in a fall travel league with fellow Cal Ripken programs in North Colonie, Niskayuna and Clifton Park. The first full Cal Ripken season in West Albany begins next spring, and Manion said he is expecting approximately a 10 percent increase in the number of players from this past year in Little League, when West Albany had nearly 300 players.
“We have adequate field space now [to handle the increase],” said Manion. “If our program was to grow by, let’s say, 20 percent, our fields can handle that. We do have expansion room, if it is needed.”
For information on South Colonie Youth Baseball, visit www.eteamz.com/scbaseball. For information on Colonie Little League, visit www.coloniell.org.