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This Year, Portsmouth Little League Looks both Forward and Back

The league celebrates its 60th anniversary this year at the same time it has an eye towards the future.

Photo Courtesy: Portsmouth Little League
Photo Courtesy: Portsmouth Little League
This year will mark the 60th year that Portsmouth Little League has been giving local youngsters a chance to take part in the American pastime and form lifelong bonds with teammates, coaches and the community.

It's also a year with lots of new things. New uniforms, new sponsors and a new president, Todd Lacy, who said the league will be trying a few new things to stem the decline in registrations all little league organizations have been seeing across the country as well as give each player more playing time.

"It's not just Portsmouth," Lacy said. "It's all around the country."

The game is under increasing pressure from other sports vying for the attention of youths, like soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, which are easy to pick up and start playing.

And little league has occasionally put kids in the position of standing around in the outfield, swatting flies instead of fly balls, since the pace of the game can be slow and "unfortunately, some people see it as a game of three players: pitcher, catcher and hitter," Lacy said.

But little league has so much to offer. It teaches strategy, cooperation, thinking ahead. A good ballplayer doesn't have to be the biggest or fastest to bring a skill to the field. And baseball, Lacy said, is ultimately a game about failure.

"I see a lot of times on both sides it's a game of failure and how you rebound from those and keep working through," Lacy said. "It's a great game. It teaches patience."

So this year, the league will trying out some changes.

For starters, they'll consider making the teams smaller, giving each player more time on the field. Last year, there were four teams each in the majors and minors, with about 13 or 14 players per team. That could be "one too many," Lacy said, suggesting an extra team with fewer players on all.

Coaches will be encouraged to be "coaching better," and you won't see many instances of a coach throwing batting practice with kids fidgeting restlessly in the outfield. Instead, they'll develop methods to make practices station-based, with players staying active during the entire practice.

They're thinking about bringing in the outfield for T-ballers, and maybe having less kids on each team so they're all moving and "in the middle of the game," Lacy said.

And other efforts will be made to seize the enthusiasm within the youngest players and nurture it with the goal of keeping their interest as they progress into the minors, and later the majors.

"What we're trying to do is get kids to stay in it and keep it interesting," Lacy said. 

This weekend, the league is hosting walk-up registrations at Portsmouth High School from 9 to 12 but you can also register online at the Portsmouth Little League Web site.

Tryouts are on March 22 and 23rd. Opening day is April 26.

Along with the 60th anniversary for the league as a whole, the league is celebrating 20 years of softball in Portsmouth and 40 for softball nationwide, 25 years for the Little League Challenger Division and nationally, it's the 75th anniversary of Little League Baseball in America.

Last year, Portsmouth Little League organized the East Bay Fall Ball League consisting of nine towns and 17 teams. It was a 12-game, 12-week program, Lacy said.

The league is also looking at a concept that would give sponsors an opportunity to adopt buildings around their parks.

Mark Schieldrop can be reached at mark.schieldrop@patch.com. Follow me on Twitter: @MarkSchieldrop
Abe Lincoln March 02, 2014 at 10:19 AM
I have great childhood memories of playing for the Lions at Arthur A Sherman field. We had two great men running the team Prescott Sisson and Paul Lemieux. During the 4 years learned more than just baseball and would recommend it to all young citizens of Portsmouth.

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