The old addage “good help is hard to come by” is often true and as the volunteers of the Albany Independent League are trying to begin a new year of sign ups, ball games and summer schedules, it has come to their attention that they don’t have enough good help.
The Albany Independent League is a strictly all-volunteer organization and AIL president Turk Polston is struggling to find volunteers and kids to fill the rosters this season.
Last Saturday, the AIL held the first day of sign -ups and will have at least three more sign-up days on the next three Saturdays, March 30, April 6 and April 13.
The next two sign-up events will be held at the Albany IGA in the Westview Shopping Center and a final sign-up event will be held at the Mountain View Rec Park.
All sign-ups will be between the hours of 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon.
As of right now, the AIL hasn’t set an opening day yet, but is aiming for the first week of May.
“We will have three sign ups hopefully. I think last year we had five,” Polston said.
Something new for this year’s leagues, will be an evaluation day which will be held after the sign ups are complete.
Polston said it will be a day where the kids will come out and the board can evaluate the skill set of each player in order to place each kid on a team and make each team evenly matched.
“It’s not going to be a tryout because we wouldn’t cut a kid for nothing,” Polston said. “We’ve not tried that, so we thought about doing that this year.”
Polston said as hard as it’s been for him to find volunteers to help coach the teams, it’s that much harder to get the kids to sign up for the league.
“Little leagues are almost the thing of the past,” Polston said. “We had almost 200 kids last year. It seems like every year it keeps going down a little bit. Little league is good for people. It was good for me. This is probably some of the only ball these kids will play.”
Before last season, in the age groups of 9-10 and 11-12 year olds had their own separate leagues, but last season, Polston said he didn’t have enough to make two teams in each division so he had to merge the two divisions together.
“It’s the same thing with girls softball,” Polston said. “We took nine, 10, 11 and 12 year olds and bunched them all together and they had two teams and they played each other.”
Another change to this year’s AIL will be the official move into the Cal Ripkin League. Before last season, Albany had always been a part of the Little League Program.
“We are officially going Cal Ripkin. We figured we would try it one year and see,” Polston said. “Going with Little League for all those years, it got all about the money for them. It was costing us so much money and no more bigger numbers than we had, we just couldn’t afford it.”
Some of the rules that conform with the Cal Ripkin League is the kids have to play at least 10 games in order to be eligible for the post season tournament.
Polston said Albany will be put in the district with Wayne County, Russell County and the Somerset area.
“We don’t have to travel and I think that’s a big thing these days. People just don’t want to travel,” Polston said. “There are so many sports anymore … there is soccer and everything else. The parents, I think, tell the kids to pick one sport and we are going to do it. I think that’s one of the reasons the numbers are down.”
One board member who is helping with this year’s AIL, Mike Davis, said they really wished more people would come out and help.
“We are open to all ideas,” Davis said. “Our greatest concern is the benefit of the kids. We want to make sure they have fun and learn. We need more people to help. We need coaches. Cal Ripkin has a strict rule on coaches. Each coach has to take an online class in order to be considered as a coach in the league. I think it’s a good thing. It tells you there is someone committed to do the work.”
Polston said he thought the class costs a little bit of money to take, but he is working on being able to provide the funds for each coach who wants to take the test and volunteer their time for a team.
“Last year we didn’t make hardly anything … two or three hundred dollars. By the time you have to pay the umpires, get the equipment, buy the balls … it’s not a money making deal,” Polston said. “If we didn’t have team sponsors and couldn’t sell the signs, we would be way in the hole. Little league would have to die. It couldn’t exist.”
This year, being apart of the Cal Ripkin League, a patch has to be present on each child’s uniform and that cost $5 per child, which is the reason for the $5 increase in the sign up fee.
This season, the price of AIL sign ups is $35 for the first child and $30 for each additional child in the same family.
Each child, boy or girls, has to be four years of age by May 1, 2013.
Polston said depending on how many kids sign up will depend on how many different divisions the league will have.
“We would love to see 250-300 kids this year,” Polston said. “When I played we had the kids. I’d say we had 400 plus kids.”
“It’s a part of my childhood and I enjoyed it,” Davis said. “They teach them more than just ball.
“It teaches them discipline, character and fundamentals,” Polston added.