Future may look different for Johnson City Little League Baseball

Douglas Fritz • Updated Jun 3, 2019 at 6:26 PM

Times are changing for Little League Baseball in Johnson City, and the future might be a little brighter than it appears these days.

This year there will be no city tournament for only the second time in decades. And the event might become a thing of the past, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, said Wayne Oler, a Johnson City American League board member.

He said he believes there will eventually be just one Little League for all of Johnson City.

“I don’t know that it would happen next year, but it could within the next couple of years,” Oler said. “A couple of years ago, we proposed going to one league. We could see the writing on the wall as we were losing good players to travel ball. The competition level was declining with those players exiting. We tried to propose a couple of ideas that didn’t get much traction, but now it’s almost a necessity.”

Lower numbers in Little League are because of several factors, including competition from lacrosse, soccer and travel ball. This led to the decline in the number of teams.

“Our league used to have eight or nine teams, but now it’s down to four,” said Oler. “The National League is down to four teams, and the Major League only has three.”

Oler said the imbalance in the number of teams was part of the reason an interleague schedule was put in place. Every Little League team played other teams in each league at least once. Oler said the American League won every game against the teams from the National League and Major League.

One of the reasons the American League had an advantage is because of a school waiver for Indian Trail students.

“Indian Trail falls in our boundary,” said Oler. “We don’t promote it, but it gets around. And this year we had several travel-ball kids come back to Little League, just for the All-Star experience.”

The All-Stars begin July 1 for the 12-year-old teams, June 24 for the 11-year-olds, and the middle of June for the 10-year-olds.

“This year we should have a really solid (12-year-old) All-Star team,” said Oler. “I’ve been fortunate enough to manage All-Stars in the past, and we’ve made it to the state with every one I’ve managed. It usually comes down to us and Bristol.”

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