After making the transition from the Independent League to Little League this spring, there were some bumps in the road in the inaugural Byfield Little League season. On the whole, the change in philosophy helped to rejuvenate baseball, according to both president Bill Dow and vice president Martin Chatterton.
After years of playing against Rowley, Salisbury and Seabrook teams in the Independent League, Dow and the Byfield board of directors made the decision to break off from the IL when the IL began discussions to include several 50/70 games throughout the season.
In 50/70 games, pitchers would throw from 50 feet instead of the traditional 45 feet in Little League and the base paths would expand to 70 feet instead of the traditional 60 feet. The IL was hoping it would be a good way to help 12-year-olds learn to adjust to the full dimensions of fields at the Babe Ruth level, but for Dow and company, it was a deal breaker.
Switching to Little League, Byfield had five teams in its Minor League of players between the ages of 8-10 and four teams at the Major League level between the ages of 10-12. The Major League teams also competed against teams from Ipswich, but Dow said one of the biggest drawbacks was the overall lack of variety playing against essentially the same competition on a nightly basis. In the past Byfield teams had competed against as many as 18 teams in the IL.
Yet along with a numbers surge in Byfield thanks in large part to the Little League advertising efforts before the year, Chatterton said the structure of Little League was perfect in terms of teaching players, parents and coaches what baseball is all about.
"Little League is about a tremendous experience at 12-years-old, it's not about winning and going to Williamsport," said Chatterton, who also thanked District 15 administrator Stan Brown for an abundance of help in getting Byfield's feet off the ground. "Coaching, mentoring, skill development — that's 95 percent of what Little League is, but people think it's different because you see stuff on ESPN."
Through coaching seminars, clinics and training sessions with the District 15 representatives, Dow and Chatterton said the Byfield coaches slowly began to get cultivated into the Little League system by understanding the differences in rule changes and also how to plan out practices to teach the game. Overall, both believed Byfield Little League will help make more players better ball players.
"Through regulations, rules and pitch counts, you learn to win as a team because every player plays, instead of winning with one or two players," Chatterton continued. "For our town, we're small enough where we want to have a little more control over what our league is about. This gave us a chance to have a new culture and a new mission for our league, and that is more parallel to the Little League standard."