A drop in numbers is actually forcing Little Leagues to get bigger, through a series of combinations.
Then there were three.
Though technically Greater Pittston Area Little League, Greater Wyoming Area Little League and Township Baseball are “combinations,” not “mergers,” without the quotations, they work like mergers.
Starting this season, the Greater Pittston Area Little League combines Duryea, Pittston City and Avoca/Dupont; Greater Wyoming Area Little League combines West Pittston (including Harding and Falls,) Exeter and Wyoming/West Wyoming; and Township Baseball combines Pittston and Jenkins townships.
Mike Krakosky, president of the GWA League, said according to Little League Inc.’s bylaws, “a ‘merger’ would require our three leagues to start a new Little League Charter for GWA, requiring us to lose our separate ones for good.”
Going through a merger would also have other requirements such as combining finances and equipment.
Volunteers at the other two combinations said the same. Mergers may happen in the future, but for now, the combinations are easier for volunteers, who have been busy getting ready for the spring season since the end of the fall season.
The combos aren’t a brave new world. The leagues had already combined variously for all-stars, teeners (junior and senior levels) and softball. This spring, with the three leagues pooling their marquee major level — 10-11-12 years old boys — the combinations are complete.
“We treated it as a full combination and a new league,” Krakosky said. “We had drafts at every level with all the players in the pool to be picked.”
GWA has five major baseball teams, two major softball teams, four minor baseball teams, one minor softball team, five coach pitch teams, and six T-ball teams.
Declining player participation is a driver of the combinations and the Greater Pittston Area volunteers are fighting against the trend.
“We did a lot of social media,” said Joe Rusincovitch, the Duryea president in GPA Little League. “We put flyers in the schools and word of mouth.”
The result was five major teams, four minors, five coach pitch and nine T-ball teams. Additionally, GPALL Softball has two minor, three major and two junior teams.
Greater Pittston Area Little League combined for the baseball majors district all-star tournament last season and won the District 16 championship.
“It was a good trial run. It was a good partnership and family- friendly,” Rusincovitch said.
The leagues are also battling low participation by reducing T-ball registration costs and handing out free gloves.
Township Baseball reduced T-ball registration to zero. Anthony Cook, one of the township volunteers, said he and the other volunteers met once or twice a week since the fall to work on the combination. He said T-ball and families are the foundation of Little League and that’s why the township had free registration for T-ball, while lowering registration costs at all levels.
“We lowered Major League to 60 from 100 dollars,” he explained.
Township Baseball has four majors, five minors, five coach pitch, five T-ball baseball teams and seven softball teams at different levels.
In total, there are more than 80 teams and 800 players in the three new leagues at all levels. That’s a lot of families, and the volunteers all agree creating a family-friendly atmosphere around Little League is an emphasis.
League presidents of the GWA LL are Angelo Alfano, West Pittston; Mike Krakosky, Wyoming/West Wyoming and Ryan Walsh, Exeter.
Greater Pittston Area has Joe Rusincovitch, Duryea; Sue Smith, Pittston City and Gary Wardecki, Avoca/Dupont.
Township Baseball’s officers are Anthony Cook, Joe Marranca, Paul McGarry and Hank Aftewicz.
Saturday, April 27, is opening day for all three leagues. GPA Little League’s opening program includes a parade and on-field ceremonies. GWA Little League and Township Baseball will have on-field ceremonies only.