Anyone who has been to a Little League baseball or softball game in Escanaba or Gladstone over the past couple decades at least, is aware of the tempers that have flared over the boundary rule imposed by Little League International for the longest time.
It really caught me by surprise at first how passionate fans and parents in Delta County were about Little League. Over the years it's been evident that more people show up to support the Little League teams than they do for the high school teams. It's a big deal here, especially with the recent state tournaments hosted by Delta County, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's great.
But as time went by and the issue became more clear to me, I began to understand where people were coming from and both sides of the issue made valid points. It seemed like there would be no resolution and the neighboring towns would be at odds over Soo-Hill kids and athletes from other disputed territories for the foreseeable future.
But then Little League's senior administration finally did something about it.
And now, with the advent of the boundary rule amendment allowing athletes the option to play for their home district or the district where they go to school, I think many people will welcome the news.
I too, give my approval of the decision that will allow kids to play with their classmates and have fun, which is really what Little League is all about at the root of it.
However, I also have some words of caution.
There are a handful of possible consequences that could result from the rule change - the road to hell is paved with good intentions sort of stuff.
For example; What if Tri-County players decide to leave their league which perennially struggles for numbers, and play for Gladstone. What becomes of Tri-County? What becomes of Channing? These are possible issues that we won't know the result of until the rule is put in practice this upcoming season.
Secondly, I feel some additional restrictions should be put on the rule amendment. For example; there is currently no limit on how many times a player may switch back and forth. One year a player might want to play for Escanaba, but the next year Escanaba might not be as strong and the player might decide to go play for Gladstone. However, as District 10 manager Don Howes said, the ability to switch might be a necessary thing.
"Let's say for example kids in Soo-Hill play in Escanaba this year and travel back and forth and it becomes a burden for the parents," he said. "They can come back next year. The door is open. Little League policy, no matter what program, what league, says we take all the kids. We don't turn kids away. We want kids coming out to have fun, learn the game and learn sportsmanship. That's all part of Little League."
I would like to eventually see something stipulating that once a player decides on a team, they're bound to that team throughout their Little League eligibility. Maybe restrict players from switching back and forth more than once.
Additionally, there is the overzealous side of things. I'd like to believe that Gladstone and Escanaba Little League won't get into a recruitment-type battle over players and put undue pressure on kids, but the nature of the rule, does allow for that possibility to happen.
As with anything, the rule amendment won't please everyone, but it does resolve an issue that has long caused strife in Delta County and even across the state.
And so, I have to think the pros outweigh the cons here. As long as we keep our heads on straight, the players should benefit. Kids can play with their friends and have more fun, so that's definitely something positive.