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AFTER THE WHISTLE

— What’s the score?

Have you ever noticed that the best rules in life are the ones that are the easiest to understand and enforce.

Speed limits, for example, are this type of rule. A single sign tells me how fast I can drive and I know if I exceed the limit there is a good chance I will end up with a ticket.



Unfortunately, the Parks and Recreational Services Department’s rule dealing with how softball teams are moved from the lower leagues to upper leagues is not that simple.

It sounds more like a lawyer’s opening statement than a guideline to be followed by local softball teams.



The rule states that if a team within a league is consistently outplaying league opponents such that the total season point scored for said team significantly outweighs (at least 35 percent higher) the total season points scored by their opponents in head-to-head games, the sports coordinator may require that the team move up in skill level the following season (breathe) should they retain at least 50 percent of their roster.

The rule, which was just reintroduced last year, is vague and filled with loop holes that make it hard to enforce. That might explain, at least in part, why there will be a special meeting this week to determine if the two men’s adult leagues in Steamboat should be combined into one.

The problem has been created over the past several years because none of the lower level teams want to move up to the upper division.

The rule was added last season in an effort to keep all of the leagues in the program strong.

Last year there were only six teams in the men’s upper division and Christina Freeman said she expects that number to shrink again this year. Meanwhile, the men’s lower level had 13 teams in it with three of those teams posting better than 14-4 records and it is expected to grow this season.

I’ve played softball in Steamboat for more than nine years. When I first started there was a rule if it wasn’t written, it was well understood that the winner of the lower level leagues would move up the next year. The loser of the upper league would move down. It didn’t have words that would lead to interpretation like “may require” or “consistently outplaying league opponents.”

It was simple and enforceable. You win, you move, end of story. The rule applied to every league and every team.

Unfortunately, a couple of years after I started playing the rule disappeared (along with several league coordinators) and it hasn’t been enforced since. That’s why there is a problem with balance in the leagues today and that’s why Steamboat is talking about eliminating an entire men’s league this summer.

I strongly support the rule at least in theory, but I must admit that the phrasing of the new rule seems to be too arbitrary and enforced too randomly.

Lets take a look at the lower level co-ed C league which was a source of problems last season.

This year TIC will move up from the lower coed league to the upper one despite finishing in a tie for third place in the final standings. That’s good news for B league which will maintain it’s numbers and it also allows a team to move down.

But two teams which finished higher and with better records than TIC will remain in the “C” league.

This seems a little confusing.

The league champion, Yampa Valley Medical Center, won with a 14-4 record and a run total of 285, and will not be required to move. That is just two runs less than TIC. Another odd point is that the team that scored the most runs, the City Spurs, will also not be forced to move. The team finished in third with a 13-5 record and scored a whopping 311 runs (a little more than 17 runs per game) on the season.

TIC must have had a great defense or volunteered to make the move this season. But either way, it proves that the system isn’t working. The top finishers in a league need to be required to move not the third place teams.

The only way to truly balance the leagues in Steamboat is to make a rule that is clear cut and easy to understand.

In the big picture, the only thing that really matters is which team has the best record after nine weeks of play.

This week the men who play softball in Steamboat will get together and try to find a quick solution to this problem which began years ago.

It’s a decision that can’t be taken lightly because it could determine the future of softball in Steamboat.

If the men’s leagues can be combined into one, what’s to stop the coed leagues from doing the same thing when the numbers dwindle in the upper division?

My fear is that it is too late to save the dual structure of men’s softball in Steamboat. Those teams will most likely be crammed into one league next week and the choices softball players have here in Steamboat will be that much more limited.

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com


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