There was a point in the middle of the harsh winter just passed, Kenny Gierloff says, when it appeared there’d be no more Little League baseball in Olive, Shandaken or Woodstock. The new president of the three towns’ Mountain Valley Little League division said people came to an Olive Town Board meeting to express their interest. And a new board started getting hashed out immediately.
Play began for four teams each in Little League minor and major divisions the first weekend in May, as well as for five very promising T-Ball teams.
“We started later than expected because we wanted the fields to be in shape,” Gierloff said while juggling baseball and soccer coaching duties, work, home repairs and trying to keep everything updated on the Mountain Valley Little League website and Facebook page. “But we also wanted to give parents a chance to get their kids signed up right until the last minute. We don’t really feel right shutting the door on any kid.”
Now in its third year, Mountain Valley Little League has grown year to year since it was founded as a replacement for what had once been three separate leagues with a host of looming political problems. They went to the national organization, pleading their case that the three towns worked well together, and got their official approvals. But then they’ve run into grown-up fatigue at running it all year to year.
Which is where Gierloff and his crew of vice presidents from each town stepped in, and stepped up the game.
“We’re about as new as they get and we all get too many calls and emails but none of us had the heart to walk away from the kids and let it falter,” he said. “We raised the $2500 needed for a charter and insurance and have been cleaning up the fields and practicing over the last few weeks.”
As usual, games will range between a number of fields: Grant Avery, with lights, is off Bostock Road in Olive; Glenbrook Park is off Routes 42 and 28 in the hamlet of Shandaken; Andy Lee Field is on Rock City Road in Woodstock and Rick Volz Field is in the Bearsville Flats in Woodstock. In addition, T Ball also takes place at Tongore Park in Olivebridge and the Phoenicia Elementary School.
More choices, declining numbers of players
Gierloff spoke about the dwindling numbers for baseball all over the region, state and nation. Reports from district administrators detail how player numbers have dropped by a third over a 15-year period, with many leagues getting split up and only a few actually growing. It appeared that the number of girls isn’t what it was even three years ago, or last summer. More kids seem to be playing spring soccer, or lacrosse, even tennis.
“Sometimes I think we’re not pushing the kids,” Gierloff said. “But who wants to push a kid?”
He and his Mountain Valley Little League board have talked about putting together incentive field trips to minor league games with the Hudson Valley Renagades, local sponsorships. But first they had to get the games up and running and the first “majors” game took place Friday, May 1 at Grant Avery, followed by minors games in various locations on Saturday.
The schedule has four major teams, one from each field, named the Mariners, Pirates, Orioles and Reds; plus the A’s, Cardinals, Padres and Rangers for minor league players (a bit younger, with coaches pitching). The Phillies, Mets, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Giants make up the fresh T-Ball talent teams.
“You know, I understand these parents who travel for soccer and other sports, but for some of us playing baseball on a home field is enough,” Gierloff added. “We’re glad to be having a season, with lots of teams and, best of all, the kids are all laughing. That’s all that matters.”
For more information on the Mountain Valley Little League, you can visit their Facebook page but for more updated information see www.eteamz.com/mountainvalleylittleleague/.