As registration begins for the 2014 Little League season, a welcome change for some may finally bring some resolve to a hot-button issue long contended at the local level.
Boundary disputes have long been a point of contention in Little League, not just locally but across the country and the world. The rule mandated that if a player lived within one boundary, that was pretty much the only team they could play for, barring a waiver. For a lot of Little Leaguers, it might not have affected much, but for a handful of kids and their parents, the rule became quite a burden.
Locally, the case in point is the Soo-Hill area. Little Leaguers that live in Soo-Hill are currently in the Gladstone Little League boundary but also live in the Escanaba School District, and for years, the rule that was in place prevented those kids from playing with their schoolmates.
The ramifications of the rule were an increased burden on parents from issues of travel, work location and child care. Their frustration is one reason why Babe Ruth and Cal Ripkin leagues have popped up, arguably creating a detriment to both Gladstone and Escanaba Little League, capturing players and revenue that would normally stay within the respective boundaries.
Recently, the Escanaba School District has redistributed students so that all 4th-6th grade students in the district will attend the Upper Elementary School. Those kids will have played together from an early age, yet according to the old rule, would not have been able to play Little League together because of the way the boundaries are drawn.
That all changed recently.
According to a press release at littleleague.org, Little League International, effective for the 2014 season has amended its residency requirements to allow children to play in the local league whose boundaries where they attend school is located. To verify enrollment, parents will need to bring an official school document, such as a report card or school enrollment form, confirming enrollment in the school for the current academic year, dated before Oct. 1, 2013.
Basically, with the monumental rule change, Little Leaguers for the first time, will have the option to either play in the boundary where they live, or play in the boundary where they go to school.
Little League Senior Vice President of Operations and Program Development, Patrick Wilson commented "Little League is always looking for more ways to give all children the opportunity to have the best Little League experience possible. This new rule will provide more flexibility to participate in the leagues that best fit their children."
The rule amendment takes effect at the international level and affects all Little League districts across the country.
Whereas before, the only way for an athlete to play in a district other than the one where they currently reside, was to submit a waiver request, which aren't often granted. Now, all that is needed to switch districts is a piece of documentation proving where the athlete goes to school.
For many, the news may come as sweet as the sound of the crack of a bat in the middle of summer.