Town’s two leagues team up to form NP Little League next year

Town’s two leagues team up to form NP Little League next year

NORTH PROVIDENCE – It’s been said that all good things must come to an end, and after this season, the North Providence East and West Little League programs, which have enjoyed two of the longest runs in the state, will join forces in 2019 and form the North Providence Little League.

North Providence West president Sal Piccirillo reported on Friday night, before his league’s Major Division doubleheader at Romano Field, that North Providence East was not going to renew its charter after this season. Instead, the NPELL will be “absorbed” by the NPWLL, the reason being simple and straightforward.

“We are doing this to save Little League baseball in North Providence,” he said. “The numbers for both leagues are continuing to decline, and we are doing this for the kids.”

“This is something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” NPELL president Jason Williams reported on Monday afternoon. “In the long run, it’s only going to benefit the kids of North Providence, so anything that will (benefit them), we are 100 percent in favor of.”

It’s been no secret that the popularity of youth baseball has dwindled not only locally, but also regionally and nationwide, and a big reason behind this, noted Piccirillo, is the rise of other sports, some of which might offer more fast-paced excitement than the national pastime.

“There are a lot of options for kids these days,” he added. “They’re playing soccer year-round, including in the spring. Lacrosse is big, and now I hear kids are playing flag football in a league around here.”

This year, both leagues lost teams to the numbers crunch, and Piccirillo noted that the NPWLL got hit especially hard by it. His league is fielding five fewer teams than it did last season, losing one team in the Major Division (for players ages 9-12), one in the Minor Division (for ages 7-11), one in its Instructional League, and two in its Tee-Ball League.

As for NPELL, it’s down to only four Major Division and three Minor Division teams. The league has operated a four-team Major Division for the last eight years, noted Williams, but this spring, the league lost a Minor Division team and scrambled to schedule a few crossover games against some of the NPWLL’s ballclubs.

“Three or four years ago, we had about 275 kids in our league,” Piccirillo reported. “That’s a big league. And I think (NPELL) had about 180 to 200 kids back then as well. But over the past few years, the numbers have been going down and down and down. This year, we’re down to 188, and if you joined both leagues this year, that would be around 310 kids right now.”

While talking about the state of affairs in both leagues, Piccirillo made one thing perfectly clear – the move to bring both together isn’t to build stronger all-star ballclubs for the summer’s District I competition, which over the seasons, had been dominated by Cranston Western.

“People have been pushing for this (merger) back before I was president, but for all the wrong reasons,” said Piccirillo, who is in his sixth season as NPWLL’s leader. “Usually, it was for all-stars, all-stars, all-stars, but down here at West, we’re not about all-stars. We have all-star teams, and if we do well, we do well, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re all for the other 200 kids who don’t make all-stars.

“If you look at leagues all over this state, everyone’s losing kids because they cater to all-stars and travel teams,” continued Piccirillo. “They don’t worry about the average player who just wants to play baseball for fun, and once these kids see that (leagues) only care about their all-stars, some of them quit. I had been waiting for one person to finally come to me and say, ‘Let’s do this for the kids,’ and that person was Jason Williams.”

The wheels got pushed into motion behind the merger last December, Piccirillo said, when he received a phone call from Mayor Charles Lombardi asking to meet with the board of directors from both leagues.

A month later, Mayor Lombardi, Piccirillo, Williams, and representatives from both leagues met at Notte Park, and the mayor “stepped aside and let us talk it out,” recalled Piccirillo. “(Administrator) John Pesaturo from District I was also there, and we hatched out a plan. We went in there thinking we weren’t going to do this, but once we realized what Jason’s intentions were – how he was in line with us and he wanted to do this for the kids – we realized that the best thing to do was to have one league.”

There was some talk of combining both leagues in time for this year, but Piccirillo quickly pulled the plug on that idea because “no one realized how much work it is to do that in a short period of time. “If they came to me in September or October, then maybe, but we still had to meet a few times to go over a few things. And right now, the (NPELL) is mirroring what we’re doing this year, such as with the way that we work our fields, and they hired our umpiring crew.”

As for the new league’s board of directors, Piccirillo plans to remain as president and keep most of his NPWLL board, which includes vice president Paul Capotosto, secretary Chris Cabral, treasurer Anastasia Wachter, player agent Jim Coughlin, safety officer Ronnie Paux, head of fundraising Holly Ryan, and head of snack bar Danielle Fergurson, and they also pitch in to do the majority of the field work with Piccirillo.

As for Williams, who is in his second season as the league’s president, “I’m going to offer my services there. It’s my son’s last year playing (in the NPELL); I’m hoping that my involvement once things get rolling will be minimal,” he added. “But I’m definitely going to be available if Sal needs anything.”

With the new league having the fields from the current leagues at its disposal, Piccirillo said that Romano Field will likely be used for the majority of the Major Division games, while the NPELL’s KFC Field complex will be used for Minor Division, Instructional, and Tee-Ball League games. Evans Field will also be used at times for the Instructional League.

“Lee Romano Field is probably one of the top 10 Little League fields in this state,” he admitted. “It’s not as good as Lincoln’s, which is a really nice field, and Cranston West is pretty nice, but this field is also really good. It drains very well when it rains; it doesn’t flood and it just soaks everything up.”

Piccirillo also noted that he’d like to run a Junior League for players ages 13 and 14, especially since after this season, the NPWLL’s Major Division will graduate 32 players.

“We think we can potentially field two teams next year,” he said. “I know there’s the North Providence-Smithfield Babe Ruth League at the high school, but I told our parents they can play in both leagues if they want. It’s going to be a fun league, and we’re going to try to play some other District I leagues – I know Silver Lake, Johnston, and Cranston have teams and John would work something out for us. If (the Junior League) works, then who know? Maybe in time, we’ll have a Senior League for players ages 15 and 16.”

While the future looks bright for the new league, the move is a bittersweet one for the proud history of the current leagues which have been in existence for generations. Piccirillo reported that NPWLL has been in existence for 67 years, while Williams believes NPELL has been around for roughly a half century.

Comments

One of the reasons for declining numbers is the kids are playing to many leagues at once. For example kids will play school league, babe ruth, and AAU all at that same time burning them and their parents out. Another example is NPLL now wants to add teams for 13-14 years old directly competing with another town league. NPS Babe Ruth last year swept the state in all three age groups for ALL State State Championships. No reason to reinvent the wheel, focus on the leagues that are currently running.

Actually the LL Junior League is a good thing. Babe Ruth takes kids from Smithfield, Lincoln, Providence, Johnston, but all the games are at NP. And the story goes some NP kids quit after a year or don't sign up at all because they don't want to be the 15th kid on a team and only play when the High School players/AAU kids aren't there. Not a few, but many kids/parents approached LL regarding this Junior League, not the other way around. I think a League comprised of just NP kids playing on our fields, who have parents paying NP taxes and voting in NP sounds like a good thing, especially if it gets more kids playing and off the streets which should be the ultimate goal here. If Babe Ruth cared more about ALL the kids and less about State Championships, then there would be no need to form another league.

Babe Ruth League has been in existence in North Providence for over 50 years. In response to your one sided negative view of Babe Ruth Baseball, we have provided opportunities for players from North Providence to always be welcome and be part of our league. We do not turn away anyone. Do we have players from other leagues playing in our league? Yes we do (however we do not have Providence kids). Without the few out of towners that do play, we would be down to probably only a 4 team league with shrunken rosters. Those players from Lincoln, Smithfield and Johnston have allowed us to be an ongoing competitive league that welcomes both the upper level players who will continue on to high school and maybe even college, and the less talented players who are there to be part of a team and enjoy the process as long as they can. Unfortunately for some, this may be their last opportunity to be a part of a baseball team. All players play in every game. We have minimum playing requirements and batting requirements for all of our regular season games. As to being the 15th kid? Doesn't matter. They still play. No matter what league you're affiliated with, someone is going to be the last player. at 13, 14, and 15 years old, the kids understand. Unfortunately, the parents don't. Don't ever say Babe Ruth doesn't care about ALL the kids. That's just a blatant falsehood, spoken like a true disgruntled Little League Parent. As to State Chanpionships, you should try one some time, you might like it.