Finding the right balance a tough go for leagues

Posted April 3, 2011

Finding the right balance a tough go for leagues

Before I begin

To preface this column, I must say I truly think the NCABL is a great league, well-organized and a great venue for Edmonton and area men who want to keep playing baseball past their minor baseball days. 

I also know this is the PBL site and some get mad when so many references are made to the NCABL, but this column is simply to examine the best way to divide men’s baseball across Alberta and where we could all go in the future. We include articles on the BRL, the (other) PBL and likely the LBL as well as the Calgary league. 

It’s fun to discuss and debate how we could play more teams, get more organized and bring like-minded recreational or competitive baseball players together for fun in the sun each summer. This includes both the best teams, finding other great teams to play and lesser teams finding other lesser teams to play. Because after all, a good, close ball game in the summer can’t be beaten!

Winter wonderings

I have been in a hockey or curling rink most of the winter. And surprisingly, even in those places, men’s baseball could be a conversation starter each and every night.

It’s surprising how many players, umpires or managers/governours you can run into. It’s probably because like myself, we all enjoy sports and have to find a replacement for baseball in the long, cold winter months.

Many times the discussion is just stories, or laughing about how bad we are, or how much weight we’ll need to lose in spring training, etc… But another topic of conversation I found with several members of several teams throughout the province, is finding competition equal to their team. Finding a league that is either competitive or recreational enough so that when you take 3-4 hours away from your family, you’re not heading out to whip someone 20-0 or get pounded 32-3.

Wrong direction for some

Being in the Edmonton area, my discussions with a couple NCABL players who, I will be honest, are on teams that are not in the top half of the league, are slanted toward the direction of the league. Numerous players are wondering if their days in the NCABL are numbered as the league gets younger, faster and more of a summer league for junior and college players rather than the recreational, hometown, old-man-have-a-brew-after-the-game league it maybe once was.

“When I came in the league it was a lot different,” one player said. “Now some of these teams have college guys and AAA players and that seems to be the direction they want to go.

“If they keep going that way, I’m probably done playing. I thought that’s why the league existed but now it’s not like that.”

This is highlighted by the league’s push to send a representative to the AAA Senior Alberta level, something usually the Sunburst League has taken care of.

Furthermore, discussions with other teams in other leagues, and others involved in the NCABL who either officiate or scorekeep for said teams, say they scratch their heads on whether they want to be involved in the tournaments and league games because the league is so good, so serious and some of the teams are so much better than most A/AA franchises.

What’s your point?

I know what most are saying, “Shut up Buzz, so what, play your PBL and keep your mouth shut about the NCABL. Quit being bitter about the Axemen.”

But that’s not why I write this. These discussions over beverages at the rinks have made me think there’s something more that could be done for both the best and worst teams in the Edmonton area.

The PBL lacks organization, umpire assignments and a variety of teams. These were the same things the best teams in the past have complained about and left because. The NCABL has all of that and does it splendidly. But the NCABL also lacks what the PBL has – a charm and laid-backness that some people (I know it’s crazy) still look for and have left that league as well. Kind of like that Tier 3 Rec Hockey League some of you play in.

It’s ironic and amazing how opposite the problems of both leagues are.

It makes you wonder if there’s an opportunity to combine or join forces in some way try to find more competition for the PBL while still allowing for the recreational model those few teams at the bottom of the NCABL pine for?

I think so. 

How it would work… Who knows?

It might take another column in the next few days to share my brainstorming on how this relegation, tiered men’s baseball league would work. And we all know it might never work since we all run our schedules, payments, umpiring assignments and playoffs differently.

But at the end of the day, if there was some way to interlock a few games a year through a tournament or two, or a couple weeks designated for inter-league vs. other teams who are at the same competitive level – how could this be a bad thing?

Does a 1-17 NCABL team find their moment of the season with a win over a PBL cellar-dweller? Does a PBL champion get to boast over brews they defeated the NCABL champion one year? And either way, it’s a couple more games against a different team or two.

Again, this isn’t even about deciding who’s best, or debating who’s a better league or fighting other people. It’s just about putting a pie-in-the-sky, just like we do sometimes talking BRL-PBL combining or a championship series. At the end of the day, it’s all for fun and getting on the field each summer for a couple dozen games with friends on both sides.

Ponder that and swing away my friends.

Posted on April 3, 2011 by Jason Buzzell

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