Lower Mac will not field a team in LVLBL
The Lehigh Valley Legion Baseball League is underway, but it's left the starting gate with one less entry this season. The Lower Macungie Mustangs were unable to field a team this season, leaving the LVLBL with nine teams.
According to Curt Wieder, the travel coordinator for the Lower Macungie team, only four players signed up to play legion ball this season and two of them were still age eligible for Connie Mack baseball, which is for players on the younger side of the eligibility ages for legion play.
Connie Mack teams have players aged 13-16, while legion teams are comprised of players from 13-19, with the younger players playing junior legion ball.
One option would have been to use the younger players who had signed up to play Connie Mack baseball, which would have eliminated the Lower Macungie Connie Mack team for the second straight season.
The other option was to eliminate the Lower Macungie Legion team and field a Connie Mack team. In going with the first option, the legion team would have been very young, inexperienced and likely, not very good. The decision was made to field a Connie Mack team and not a legion team this season.
The two players who weren't eligible for Connie Mack ball were eligible to then play for whichever other legion team's home field is geographically closest to their home. That would have likely meant either South Parkland or Emmaus, depending on where the players lived.
The Connie Mack team is off to a 4-1 start and playing good ball according to Wieder, who is helping to coach the team this season.
The problem isn't something that's new to baseball, as participation has been slowing for years in just about every youth league, not just in the Lehigh Valley, but around the country.
The reasons have varied and locally, Wieder believes that there are new reasons for why they have seen such a drop in players.
"The numbers have been dropping for a while and it has a lot to do with tournament baseball and the rapid growth of lacrosse," said Wieder, who grew up locally and has fond memories of playing legion ball as a youth. "When I was a kid, it was a sense of pride. It was sort of like representing my hometown, but that's changed over the years."
There is a division among coaches, players and fans around baseball regarding whether a tournament team or a legion team is the better showcase for a player hoping for an athletic scholarship or possibly catching the eye of a scout. The Lehigh Valley Legion League holds an annual showcase for its players that is well attended by area college coaches and some pro scouts. Their annual all-star game is played in Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium and is also attended by coaches and scouts.
Already, there is talk about what could happen for next season and one idea is for the Emmaus and Lower Macungie teams to merge and allow players covering each of the team's territories to play for the Emmaus Legion team.
"The people with the league have been very supportive and helpful," said Wieder. "We've had some conversations about what to do down the road, so there might be some options. We just have to wait and see."