In an effort to keep more Grosse Pointe boys playing baseball, officials from the Grosse Pointe Farms-City Little League have begun a new transition league for players 13 years old and older.
The 50/70 Intermediate League allows the players to use a field that is slightly bigger than what is used for little league but slightly smaller than the junior/senior league, said Will Lianos and Geoff Vernon, two of the dads who helped establish the new league.
It will serve players from all five Grosse Pointes and possibly Harper Woods, if they agree to be a part of the league, Lianos said. Ideally six teams will be formed but that will depend on how many players register, he said.
The objective is to retain more of the players, they said, explaining that often after exiting Little League, the boys will quit playing altogether or will sign up for travel baseball.
Having an intermediate Little League team allows for the players to continue playing in a community baseball setting, Vernon said. It is not competitive in the sense that everyone is welcome at all skill levels and teams will have a mix of talent, they said.
The teams will not be organized by city as they have been in the three Grosse Pointe-based Little Leagues as part of division six of the Little League International, they said. Each team will contain a mix of players from all of the Grosse Pointes, they said.
Field size had a lot to do with losing players at this age, they said, because the jump from the Little League field to the Junior-Senior field is significant making it harder for the players during the adjustment period.
For now, the teams will play on the field at Kerby Elementary that has been altered to meet the size requirements of an intermediate field, they said. The intermediate field has a pitchers mound that is 50-feet from home plate and baselines that are 70-feet.
In comparison, the Little League field is 46-feet for the pitchers mound with 60-foot baselines and the Junior-Senior field is 60-feet to the pitchers mound with 90-foot baselines.
Another advantage to offering a community baseball option is the expense, Vernon said, explaining that the league is far less than travel baseball and it will require less far travel.
Part of what spurred the creation of the intermediate league was the number of boys they had who were 12 last year, they said. It was a bigger group that the leagues have had in a while, they said.
Additionally, many of the coaches recall playing baseball throughout their teen years in Babe Ruth leagues, they said, but those disbanded.
"We want to re-kindle the energy," Lianos said. "A lot of coaches played in those leagues. We want to get back to it."
The season starts the last week of April and league officials are hopeful that everyone will register by the end of February. All three of the Grosse Pointe Little League organizations have registration for the Intermediate League available on their websites.
The teams will play within the league but also play teams from the Macomb County region of which the league is a part. There is also tournament play at the end of the season similarly to Little League with the ultimate game--the national title--being played in California, they said.
Thus far, Lianos and Vernon said they have a solid group of dads who are willing to help coach but the league is still looking for additional coaches. Parents are encouraged if they are interested to indicate this during the registration process.