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Rutland Baseball and Softball

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May, 2017

BOD Address Concerns About Softball Program

Dear Rutland Baseball and Softball families,

The board of directors is very disheartened that finding a voice for your frustrations and concerns about our softball program had to be sparked by a Facebook post and played out through social media. While social media has its place, we are firm believers that bridges are better built when parties come together, face-to-face, to discuss the issues, address concerns, seek information, understand the risks, challenges and boundaries, and find potential solutions or compromises. While this Facebook discussion unfolded, it was clear to our board that many do not understand the rules, restrictions, requirements and personal liabilities that our volunteer board faces. We would like to take this opportunity to address some of them.

First and foremost, we are disappointed that this became a discussion about gender inequality along with insinuations that we care more about our male players than female. This could not be further from the truth—we work on behalf of all the children we serve whether male, female, transgendered, gay, straight, of this race or that race, etc. Many of our board members have children who play softball, and they are valued for giving well-balanced input to many of the discussions and decisions made for the benefit of the entire league. Are we faced with limitations? Most certainly, we are.

This is not about gender. It is about two similar but different sports with different rules, regulations and field specifications. Girls have always been welcome to play baseball on Marsh Field, and in the early days when Rutland did not have an organized softball program, many did. Today, 38 girls—that’s one-third of the females registered this season, will play baseball at Marsh Field. It is important that our softball families understand the history of our organization and Marsh Field.

In April 1952, the Rutland Recreational Council announced and sponsored a committee to “sound out the reactions to the forming of a boy’s baseball league this summer.” Two meetings about forming the Rutland Boys Baseball League (RBBL) were held in town during the month of April 1952 and "at a special assembly, all interested boys within the proposed age groups witnessed a baseball movie, and then were briefed on plans of the League Committee by Edward ‘Lefty’ Story.”

In May 1952, the first board of directors for the Rutland Boys Baseball League was elected and various committees were formed including Field Procurement, Equipment, Umpires, Managers, Coaches and Rules. At that time, games were played at Memorial Field.

RBBL continued to grow over the years and thus became incorporated with the state of Massachusetts as an official nonprofit organization in 1971. RBBL was comprised of “five leagues, consisting of, a Farm League for 7 and 8 year olds, which was an instructional league; a Minor League for 8 and 9 year olds; a Little League level for 10 to 12 year olds; and a Babe Ruth League for 13 to 15 year olds.”

In 1972, the RBBL board of directors met with town officials and secured their approval to lease the land of the former town dump on Pommogussett Rd. (Rte 56). Charles D. Marsh Little League Field was constructed there between the years of 1972 through 1975. The Rutland Boys Baseball League hired contractors, used some volunteer help and spent $30,000 they raised through a grant, private donations and fundraising events to convert the dump to a baseball field. It took RBBL three years to convert the dump into a proper baseball field with grass, a sprinkler and drainage system. In 1975, RBBL played its first full season on what was to become and is now known as Marsh Field.

According to the November 6, 1980, “Rutland News” article written by Chris Jolie, in 1980 some 200 boys and girls participated in playing ball under the Boys League in Rutland. In 1989, the Rutland Boys Baseball League was restructured into Rutland Little League Baseball, Inc, (RLLB), and was chartered with Little League Baseball, Inc. of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The league continued to grow. Over the years, fundraising campaigns and volunteer support from baseball fans led the way for banks of lights to be installed, the Snack Shack, the announcer’s booth, and a secure and dedicated storage shed.

We are unsure when Marsh Field was officially named, or when the sign featured in the Facebook post that initiated this discussion was designed and erected. A member of our board grew up and played softball in Rutland at the time that Marsh Field was built. She remembers watching her brothers play baseball there, yet she never played softball there—it was a baseball field. They played on what is now the AA field. This was in the ‘70s. Was there a time softball played at Marsh? We have no records indicating this is so. It is apparent that the sign has been there for some time, and should be redone to reflect these times, because certainly the rules, regulations and liabilities associated with youth sports today is much different than it was 40, 30, even 20 years ago, where safety and liability have become major factors. At the end of the day, Marsh Field is, and was always intended to be, a baseball field.

So when did softball come under the Rutland Little League umbrella? In 2011, the former president of the Rutland Softball Association, who at the time also served on RLLB’s board of directors, asked if RLLB would consider administering Rutland’s softball programs. He was planning on stepping down as president of RSA and thought the program could benefit from RLLB’s financial strength and volunteer resources. The slow transition began in the 2012 season, and RLLB’s board was careful to hear out concerns some softball families had about the merger. A year-end picnic was very important to softball, and RLLB promised not to infringe on that tradition—even though a similar event has never been run for baseball. To this day, our board has stuck to that promise, and has even contributed funds to it.

As it was the board’s feeling that the transition for Rutland’s softball program under the RLLB umbrella had gone well—contrary to what some think, softball has benefited a lot from the union—the board voted in the name change to Rutland Baseball and Softball this season. If RLLB had foreseen softball demands to shave down the pitching mound to accommodate softball games, it likely would not have been open to entering into the union at all. Portable pitching mounds are a solution for leagues that have limited venues and must share a field with other sports, but they are not as good as an actual dirt mound where pitchers can really dig in and push off. Rutland is lucky in that we have two fields dedicated to softball. Portable mounds pose safety risks that traditional mounds do not—they can be slippery and the lip can cause falls and twisted or broken ankles. Building a traditional mound is not as simple as dumping a pile of dirt in the middle of the field. They must meet proper distance, alignment and height measurements, so you can imagine, shaving it down and rebuilding would be an endeavor for the small core of volunteers who already dedicate countless hours keeping our fields in shape.

Do we wish that all of our fields were as incredible as Marsh? Of course we do! But the other fields are public property, and shared with other sports. We cannot lock the gate to keep them safe, secure and in shape; we cannot do with them whatever we want without the red tape of town politics. There is a movement for sports facilities in Rutland to mirror what we have in Marsh—but without more volunteer support and funding, they are certainly a ways down the line. We would invite all of you who would like to see improved facilities to get involved.

We do not get town funding for our fields—raising money through a dedicated sponsorship program and calendar raffle sales help immensely but only gets us so far. Each year, the board allocates funds for field improvements, and has spent over $45,000 in improvements the last few years. This year, the board voted to allocate funds to the Babe Ruth field. Aside from drainage issues and a concrete infield posing safety issues, the time-worn, non-regulation backstop needs to be replaced, the field has no dugouts or permanent batting cage. It is by far the worst field, considering the age group that plays on it, and so a priority for this season’s funding allocation.

During transition, Softball was asked if they wanted to participate in the league’s calendar raffle—and softball families agreed. The decision to stop selling calendar raffles for softball is yours to make, but it will directly impact the funds available for softball programs. From fundraising efforts, we have allocated $3,400 towards a new permanent batting cage for use for Softball, but we cannot start work on that in the middle of the school year.

The complaints about having to turn in softball pants--this goes back to the time, where RSA ran on a shoestring budget, and had a commitment to keeping registration fees low—certainly not on par with the baseball fees, until recently. This is an easy fix. The board has already voted to buy pants for softball that they can keep.

The league does own a portable scoreboard—it currently is at the CTMS softball field. Check with Vice President of Softball Eric Charbonneau for access. Keep in mind, volunteers would be needed to retrieve, set up, and work the scoreboard, and safely return it to storage. A portable sound system for announcing is something the board could consider. We can look into the possibility of make-shift snack shacks—again, with volunteers willing to set them up, work them, and tear them down. There is a lot that we can do, but not without the help of more volunteers.

That said, as there were many who responded to the initial Facebook post with a vast list of questions and concerns—too many to address here--we would like to invite you all, and anyone else who has an interest, to meet with the executive board of Rutland Baseball and Softball on Wednesday, May 31 at 8 p.m. in the Rutland Library, so that we may work together on finding some creative solutions to make the experience better for our softball players.


Rutland Baseball and Softball Board of Directors

Contact Us

Rutland Baseball and Softball

P.O. Box 608 
Rutland, Massachusetts 01543

Email: [email protected]

Rutland Baseball and Softball

P.O. Box 608 
Rutland, Massachusetts 01543

Email: [email protected]
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