[9/18/21 Meridian Centre Park in Brighton. Professional umpire David Kramer dusting off home plate. Photo: Marnie Harvey]
Brighton Little League fall baseball is back at Meridian Centre Park in Brighton where on a sterling late summer afternoon, three teams enjoyed the final stretch of the 2021 season.
Brighton Little League VP of Baseball Operations and unofficial Fall Ball Commissioner Matthew Harvey filled me in on what is now called The Sluggin’ League, an innovative version of baseball using only 6 fielders, all in the infield, with a low, close outfield fence. Matt is a Library Media Specialist in the Gates-Chili Central School District and has coached scholastic baseball in Boston, the Gananda Central School District and now for Gates-Chili.
As Matt explained, Brighton Little League has run a fall league for many years. The league serves several purposes. First, the spring league ends in June and most players do not play much in the summer. Kids who love baseball get more come September. In addition, the six week program allows those who have never played organized baseball to get their first experiences with the game. This year, the program attracted about 225 players. The league is both fully competitive and with a strong instructional component for beginners. Games are held Wednesday mornings at 10am and Saturdays at 2pm.
This year the league is experimenting with 6 on 6. Matt says the format allows for smaller rosters and more at bats per player. Also, the short fence encourages players to take healthy cuts, aiming for home runs normally outside their range. Hence, the league is now called the Sluggin’ League. I like the concept. In Little League, playing the outfield can be boring. Now, on most plays, all the kids are involved in the action.
Matt also mentioned that in the spring season Brighton Little League usually uses high schoolers who came up through the league ranks. In the Fall, many of those umpires are unavailable, so the coaches umpire the games, also allowing for on field instruction.
A professional umpire, mostly recreational softball at Cobb’s Hill, I offered to pitch in, quickly realizung the coaches were doing just fine. Brighton Central School District’s Athletic Director Nate Merritt was one of the umpires. We met Nate in 2016 at the then Barons first televised football game at Reifsteck Field and this year at the Bruins’ June sectional game at East High School.The Guardian’s Ethan Rittenberg # 9 was involved in a play that could have been controversial when his hit rolled under the fence. However, with Solomon-like foresight, Commissioner Harvey just one day ago emailed the teams that a batter striking a thrown pitched ball that subsequently rolls under the fence is to be given a two base award. So, Ethan was sent to second base without controversy.
In the past, I’ve umpired Brighton Little League games at Buckland and Meridian Parks.
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