By Joyce Erekson
Anyone who has ever been involved in Little League can probably attest to the fact that keeping all the balls up in the air to ensure the players have a good experience is truly a labor of love.
West Lynn Little League president Donna Bartnicki, her board members and assorted volunteers have been going great guns since January trying to cross the T’s and dot the I’s in time for the official start of the season this weekend. The same scene is being repeated throughout the city at the four other Little Leagues (Pine Hill, East Lynn, Shore and Wyoma) this spring.
This is Bartnicki’s first year as league president. She took over for former president Craig Whitcomb. Bartinicki said one of the challenges the league is facing it trying to get the lights at Barry Park (the former West Lynn National field) repaired so that the league can schedule some night games down there and host tournaments and all-star games. The latter two bring much needed money into the league. At this point the field is used mostly for practice.
Bartnicki said West Lynn’s numbers are down (from 196 to about 160) this year and that has meant the loss of a major league team.
“The numbers are a little lower this year, that’s for sure,” Bartnicki said. “But you’re seeing that across the leagues.”
Bartnicki said it’s a challenge to pull kids away from their video games to get them out playing ball. She said compounding the problem is that it’s tough for some families to get involved because many of the players come from single parent homes and homes where parents tend to work multiple jobs. This affects enrollment and the ability to get adult volunteers to help run the program.
There are 17 people on the West Lynn LL board of directors. Bartnicki said the volunteer contingent and assorted league supporters have been very dedicated She said the group includes tradesmen who have use their electrical, masonry, roofing and other skills to help out , saving the league considerable money. The Red Sox Foundation also gave the league a boost with a $500 donation. Still, money is always an issue.
“A lot of people don’t realize that a dozen baseballs are $30-$40 per box,” she said, adding that the cost of entering teams in tournaments also went up, from $100 to now $250.
Bartnicki has been involved in West Lynn Little League for seven years and she’s committed to seeing it survive.
“I love kids. I’m a Sunday School teacher. I’ve known some of these kids since they were seven-years old.,” she said. “The point of the game is for them to have some fun. This is not Major League baseball. We stress team work and respect. We hope they’ll come out with values they’re not getting elsewhere.”
Bartnicki said there has been talk over the years of merging some of the leagues. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but for now the job is to keep the West Lynn as strong as possible.
“West Lynn is the oldest Little League in the city,” she said. “ We can’t let it got. There’s too much tradition.”