Amesbury and Groveland won't be the only local towns represented in the Williamsport Little League Tournament next summer.
Last week, two other local factions — one from Byfield and Newbury, and one from Merrimac — voted in favor of joining Little League Baseball, effective immediately. The respective leagues will be known as Byfield-Newbury Little League and Merrimac Little League. Youth baseball players in Byfield, Newbury and Merrimac previously participated in the Intertown League, along with teams from Georgetown, Rowley, Salisbury and Seabrook.
The two new leagues will follow the rules of Little League Baseball. At season's end, each league's coaches and players will select a 12-year-old all-star team to participate in the Williamsport Tournament, which is broadcast on ESPN each August.
Newburyport's youth baseball league, the Pioneer League, also does not have a partnership with Little League Baseball. The league's board of directors gave coaches the option to vote on the matter in 2006, and the majority voted to remain independent. The common sentiment appeared to be a concern that joining Little League Baseball, which is renown for its worldwide all-star tournament, would take the focus off developmental aspects. League president Bob Horne said last summer he did not foresee the board readdressing the Little League union in the near future.
Byfield-Newbury Little League Vice President Martin Chatterton said the Williamsport Tournament played a minimal factor in the push for a union with Little League Baseball.
"It has nothing to do with the World Series," Chatterton said. "The odds of that happening ... We wanted structure for the league. We wanted access to the benefits Little League provides. They provide brochures that show that the primary focus is teaching fundamentals to kids. It gives us a greater depth of resources with coaching clinics. If we have problems, we can call a Little League representative to handle disputes."
Chatterton believes the Byfield-Newbury branch was a member of the Intertown League since 2000. Members of the board debated the idea each of the last three years, but decided the timing wasn't right. Chatterton placed a call to the Little League offices in Williamsport in September and was quickly contacted by Massachusetts District 15 administrator Sam Brown, who attended two board meetings and facilitated the union.
"He didn't sell it to us," Chatterton said. "He just delivered the facts."
Byfield-Newbury and Merrimac will join 20 other teams in District 15, which also includes North Shore teams from Amesbury, Groveland and Topsfield. Pentucket Little League board member Sean O'Neil spearheaded the effort for Merrimac. The Pentucket board voted in favor of the Little League union last Wednesday.
"This has been a long process started by Sean several months ago ... It will become a reality and be great for the children of Merrimac," said Merrimac Little League board member Walt Slevoski.
Each league will pay a fee, which Chatterton described as "minimal," to Little League Baseball for its membership. Chatterton estimated the fee for his 200-player league would translate to $16 per team or just over $1 per player.
"The benefits of the cost far outweigh the negatives," Chatterton said. "Little League provides full insurance and legal representation along with that fee. They provide coaches' clinics and full access to their stadiums. We'll have a uniform structure for parents and volunteers to come in behind the current group of board members, and we have job descriptions as part of the charter with Little League."
Little League vs. Independent
Groups from Byfield-Newbury and Merrimac recently voted in favor of joining Little League Baseball. Here is the local breakdown of youth baseball leagues.
TownYouth baseball league