Looking for a few good men
Lack of players makes future of once-triving softball league uncertain
Ten years ago, the Loudy-Simpson softball fields were reserved for men’s league softball games at least two nights a week in the summer.
This summer, there may be no men’s league at all.
“There were 18 teams in the league back then,” Craig Softball Association president Steve Ivers said. “We’re looking at maybe four teams this year.”
Everybody involved with the league has an opinion on what has happened to a once- thriving league.
“Over the years, the top teams would pick up the best players from the other teams,” said Robert Razzano, who ran the league for 10 years. “It ended up being two or three good teams against the rest.”
Razzano was part of the top tier of teams. He played and then managed the group that has won 11 of the last 13 titles.
Just Another Ball Team has won the tournament title the other two years. A majority of the championship games involved the two teams.
“The other teams tended to not have a chance,” Razzano said. “There was no competition except for the two or three teams at the top.”
Ivers is on JABT. He has contemplated splitting up his team this year to keep the league alive, but low numbers for JABT might not make that possible.
“We only have about 10 guys returning,” he said.
The numbers for the league aren’t official, because sign-up begins in April, but several teams have made it known they plan to play in Steamboat Springs.
“They’re going to Steamboat because they believe there’s more competition there,” CSA Treasurer Wade Hafey said. “The league here is highly competitive, but it is just with the top couple of teams.”
During the league’s peak, teams consisted of a mix of younger and older members of the community. Razzano, Hafey and Ivers think the lack of a youth movement has hurt numbers.
“There are no younger kids at the high school or college age coming to play,” Razzano said. “The teams weren’t able to restock because no one new joined.”
The coed league has attracted the younger players and it is thriving partially because of that. Last year the coeds had 14 teams and were separated into two divisions.
Hafey said that the coed league nights tend to be more family friendly.
“It gets so competitive you hear some things during the men’s league that you wouldn’t want youngsters to hear,” he said. “If the league were to survive, there could be some provisions for a more family friendly atmosphere.”
Three years ago, leagues for men, women and coed teams existed. The women’s league disbanded because of a lack of numbers.
The men’s league could go the same direction.
But it’s not as if officials aren’t trying.
“There are so many things out there for kids to do, we are losing players because the parents are at their kids’ games and don’t make time for themselves,” Ivers said. “We’ve always tried to schedule games after youth activities are over so parents can make the games.”
Hafey said he understands when people hesitate to make another commitment. He has been asked to be on a team this year but doesn’t know whether he’ll or not.
“With everything that’s going on it’s almost too hard,” he said. “It’s a shame to see the league go down, though.”
All of this talk is preliminary until teams start to register in May.
The season is scheduled to start after Memorial Day weekend.
“I would hate to see the league die,” Razzano said. “I guess we’ll wait and see.”
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