Leave it to the county Recreation and Parks Department to make a badsituation worse. Through a lack of common sense, it has pitted the South against the North.
It's not a civil war, but after what Rec and Parks did to youth baseball recently, I believe the time has come to rename the county-funded department South County Rec and Parks.
Catering to the desires of uninformed youth baseball groups in South County, and totally ignoring the educated desires of those in North County, the Rec and Parks Department has formed new divisions thatwill play on baseball diamonds not suitable in size for the ages of the players.
It's a travesty and absolute lack of leadership on the part of Rec and Parks to allow 12- and 13-year-olds to play on 70-foot diamonds with a pitching distance of only 48 feet, and 14- and 15-year-olds on 80-foot diamonds with a pitching distance of 54 feet.
The new age divisions were created to appease South County teams who were disgruntled over the change of the age cutoff date from Jan. 1to Aug. 1.
National organizations such as the American Amateur Baseball Congress, National Amateur Baseball Federation, Continental Amateur Baseball Association, Dizzy Dean Baseball and Pony Baseball have proven that Aug. 1 should be the age cutoff date and that 13-14 kids should play on 80-foot diamonds if not 90-foot, which is where 15-year-olds belong.
The county dimensions are not conducive to the development of youth players nor their safety.
"I can't believe whatthey've done," said Tom Neuberger, a longtime director in the Severna Park Green Hornets program. "Some of our coaches talked about restructuring our teams, but I told them not to because hopefully the county will change it
back where it belongs next year."
You would think by now South youth groups would admit something is wrong with their summer programs.
A perennial lack of baseball success by SouthCounty high schools such as Southern (4-12), South River (4-14) and Annapolis (6-12), can be linked to the poorly run Rec and Parks youthbaseball program. The records in parentheses are last year's but typical seasons at those schools except for the 1988 state championship year at Annapolis.
Meanwhile, North teams such as Arundel (20-4, state 4A champ), Northeast (24-0, state 2A champ), Old Mill (15-7), Severna Park (14-4) and Glen Burnie (10-10) are more than competitive each season. Arundel owns five state titles, Northeast has three and Old Mill two.
While it may not be the job of the county Recreation and Parks Department to complement the county high school baseball program, one would think that because tax dollars make the youth programs possible, the county would at least be cognizant of what is in thebest interests of the players.
Instead, the Rec and Parks Department caters to those in South County and gives them what they want no matter how ridiculous. As a result, the county continues to lose teams who go other places or form their own leagues.
Because of the age inequities, the Green Hornets have put a 12-and-under team in the Baltimore Metro League. Their older 13-to 15-year-olds are playing in the newly formed Babe Ruth League, which is not run by the county, and in the Joe E. Brown 16-and-under League.
Babe Ruth and Joe E. Brown are on regulation 90-foot diamonds. The Joe E. Brown is part of the Anne Arundel Amateur Baseball Association run by Lew Holmes and its only affiliation with the county is the use of its fields and umpires' subsidy.
The AAABA was formed for 18-and-under and 16-and-under baseball about 15 years ago with the Aug. 1 cutoff date, because the county couldn't handle the older age groups, and it took a volunteer in Holmes to straighten things out and run a smooth ship.
It should be rather insulting to Rec and Parks that a volunteer does a considerably better job than the paid personnel. Maybe Holmes ought to bepaid to run the entire county baseball program, because the exodus of teams from county-run leagues now has filtered down to the lower age groups.
Teams such as Linthicum Sports of Wayne Feuerherd, Gambrills of Keith Haney and the Kazmarek Little Orioles have found other places to play because as Haney said, "We don't want 14-year-olds batting against near-16-year-olds from 54 feet out."
In addition, 29 teams are playing in the John Moore-Joe Wasniak-run North County 13-14 League using an 80-foot diamond and Aug. 1 cutoff date.
The brunt of the problem is that Rec and Parks does not run its own program but lets the coaches do it. While that can be beneficial, the department doesn't know when to step in and put its foot down and say, "Hey, wait a minute, that's ridiculous and not in the best interest of the program."
This never was more evident than at the first organizational baseball meeting in February at Rec and Parks headquarters in Crownsville.