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Local Youth Baseball Leagues Joining Forces
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
07:04AM / Sunday, April 03, 2022
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After two years of canceled games or restricted action, youth baseball in North County is coming back in a big way.
 
The Lanesborough and Williamstown Cal Ripken Baseball Leagues and Northern Berkshire Independent Youth Baseball League are joining forces to give their players better competitive opportunities.
 
And the Adams-Cheshire and Dalton-Hinsdale Little Leagues are following suit.
 
The winners, organizers say, are the players in all four programs.
 
"It's been building for years," Williamstown Cal Ripken President Chris Johnson said of the partnership with the North Adams-based NBIYBL. "Ever since they formed an independent league, we've been trying to connect with them.
 
"It seems like the perfect time, coming out of a pandemic, to try to put something new together that can last and make it easy for groups to work together a little bit more."
 
Williamstown Cal Ripken, which runs teams from T-ball up to 6th grade, already plays games at its older levels (grades 3 through 6) against Cal Ripken teams from Lee and Pownal, Vt. Now those travel opportunities will include games closer to home.
 
"What we're hearing from families is they want to get more baseball going and build a connection with North Adams more," Johnson said. "We had to check with the Cal Ripken national group to make sure we could play independent games, and they said yes. [The NBIYBL] rules are very much based on Cal Ripken rules.
 
"There's great baseball coming out of North Adams, great baseball coming out of Lanesborough, great baseball coming out of Williamstown. We're deepening the pool."
 
Johnson said it is likely there will be eight "Majors" division teams competing this spring from the five programs involved. The programs plan to compete for a North County championship at the end of the season.
 
To the south and west, the Adams-Cheshire and Dalton-Hinsdale programs will form a league of seven teams at the Majors level (ages 9-12).
 
"This will give our boys and girls a chance to play way more baseball, see better competition, and to have much more fun," according to a post on Adams-Cheshire Little League's Facebook page.
 
Dalton-Hinsdale Little League President Collin Parrott said merging with another league will make it more fun for the players, who won't see the same faces game after game.
 
"I hope it's a bigger draw for the league," Parrott said. "We had a couple of more kids sign up after we announced [the merger]. In talking to the guys in Adams-Cheshire, it sounds like their league is comparable in size and skill."
 
Last year during the pandemic, Dalton-Hinsdale teams played some games on Saturdays against squads from the Great Barrington Little League. This partnership will open up different opportunities without as much travel.
 
Parrott said the leagues have been consulting with District 1 Commissioner Bryon Sherman, who encouraged the partnership.
 
"He doesn't have a problem with two boards working together to do what they can do to make baseball better in the area," he said.
 
The merged leagues will begin play right away after joining forces at Dalton's annual Opening Day parade on May 7.
 
The NBIYBL and Lanesborough and Williamstown Cal Ripken programs are planning their own opening days that same Saturday.
 
But the night before, they will join forces at North Adams' Fallon Field for "Baseball Bonanza," an evening of skills competitions, a home run derby, raffles and live music featuring North Adams native CJ Field, who performed at last year's Fresh Grass music festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
 
There will be a taco truck from Tres Ninos, whose owner, Matt Tatro, is a longtime supporter of youth sports, and the event will utilize the pavilion at the Greylock Club, next door to Fallon Field.
 
The May 6 Baseball Bonanza will give North County youngsters a chance to show their skills under the lights thanks to the support of the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, which has agreed to help with portable lights at Fallon Field.
 
If all goes according to plan, the same players will be back under the lights later in the season for an all-star game at Williamstown's Bud Anderson Field.
 
North Adams Independent Youth Baseball League President Scott McAllister
 
"The Baseball Bonanza and league scheduling of games convergence was something that was, in addition to as a community fundraiser, always thought of but never tested out so here we are in an effort to benefit our youth and make baseball strong again," McAllister said.
 
"This and all the hard work of some dedicated friends, volunteer board members, coaches and parents have all allowed this event to become a reality."
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