Maybe, it’s time to bring back Little League ball to area

Published 8:58 am Monday, May 20, 2019

To the Editor:
Ivan Sanders’ article in the STAR Tuesday, May 14, and his reference to C.Y. Peters’s posting on Facebook earlier about the absence of Little League Baseball in Carter County struck a sad note with this former Little League member. Being gone for many years, it did not really hit me that Elizabethton and Carter County no longer had organized Little League baseball and/or softball.
Growing up in Elizabethton in the 1950s and ’60s I and many, many others came through the Little League here and graduated into Pony League (13-14) and Pony Grad or Colt League (15-16). So, basically, many of us spent seven years in Blackbottom playing baseball. First, on Hickory Street, then down at where the Twins are now. It was the most joyful time of my life. It was summer and the lights came on and we played baseball. We played about a 10-12 game schedule among usually four teams at the time, and then we had all-star tournaments at the end of the season. The farthest we traveled was to Bristol and Canton, N.C., and one year, to Tampa, Fla., during my first year in Pony League. After Pony League I played for the Johnson City Connie Mack Team (17-18) that display area teams from Bristol, Greeneville, Knoxville, etc.
We were under the wings of some of the greatest adults I know. My dad, Mutt Ryan, Harold Williams, Jim Ensor, Pal Westmoreland, Gordon Welch, Chick Pless, Chris Ritts, Joe Bowling, Bob Stanton, Bobby Chambers and many others who were involved as coaches, sponsors, board members, and just supporters. I think the Elizabethton Boys Club and Buck VanHuss had much to do with its successful beginning. Too many adults to list. Many reading this have others to thank through the years in Elizabethton and Carter County. And, don’t get me wrong, we also played in the streets and playgrounds, unsupervised.
What happened to the Little League and its branches? When and why did it disappear? I know that while I was gone, it expanded and grew and teams made it to the state tournaments. Wasn’t there an American and National at one time? Then what? Has Johnson City, Bristol and localities lost their programs?
I don’t know the cause, but I realize the many years I spent coaching and in school administration and as a school board member in Smyth County, Va., left me with an uneasy feeling about Travel Ball and AAU sports. I have always felt like it was a business and an ego booster, not a sport. Traveling to distant places, costing parents tons of money and leaving many kids out because of this. I won’t argue the points, but I know my dad and mom couldn’t have afforded for me to pay.
Maybe it’s time for Mr. Peters, Mr. Sanders and others interested see about bringing back what should never have been gone in my opinion. As as a former high school and summer league coach, I think I would like to hear the opinions of our middle school and high school coaches.
As Ernie Banks said, “Let’s play two.”

Dick Ryan

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