Archive for Thursday, May 6, 2004

Softball players drawn to Friday night lights

May 6, 2004


Bob Stanclift remembers when nobody wanted to participate in slow-pitch softball on a Friday night.

"I used to schedule rainout make-ups on Fridays," said Stanclift, the city's adult sports supervisor. "Now Fridays have gone bonkers."

Five men's leagues and two coed leagues are scheduled on Friday nights this spring. So many people want to play on Fridays that Stanclift was short on diamonds. To alleviate the problem, he made a deal with Sport 2 Sport, a commercial recreation company, to use its two diamonds.

"It's a trade-out," Stanclift said. "Sport 2 Sport will be able to use some of our fields in the fall."

Sport 2 Sport is located on the other side of the South Lawrence Trafficway from four-diamond Clinton Lake Softball Complex, the city's primary softball facility.

Slow-pitch participation in Lawrence reached a peak six years ago when more than 270 teams signed up, but the numbers have been in a slow decline since. Stanclift estimates a pool of about 250-plus this year.

"We went up about 20 teams last year," Stanclift said, "and it looks like we'll have about 15 to 20 more than that this year, so it's rebounding a little bit."

The growing popularity of Fridays obviously has helped the resurgence. Stanclift isn't sure why Fridays have become so popular, but it's the only night when teams play doubleheaders. On other nights, teams are scheduled to play only one game.

"That probably has something to do with it," he said. "In the future, I may offer doubleheader leagues on other nights as well."

In the meantime, Stanclift is offering prospective teams that were too late to be included in current league schedules an opportunity to participate by forming additional leagues that will start in June and end in late July, the same time the leagues with 14-game schedules that began in mid-April will conclude.

"What I'm trying to do is see if there is a demand for a 10-game schedule from teams that missed the April deadline," Stanclift said. "In the past, there was no way to involve those teams until fall ball started in August."

Those late leagues are being offered to men's and coed teams on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights.

"I have diamonds available on those nights," Stanclift said, "so we'll see how much interest there is."

Next Wednesday is the entry deadline for those late leagues.

Long-time city slow-pitch participants may have noticed that Stanclift has changed the way he identifies leagues. For example, the men's leagues had been listed as Men's One, Men's Two, Men's Three etc. until this year.

"We had 12 men's leagues and people thought they signified 12 different levels of competition," Stanclift said. "Now the classifications are based on home run limits."

There are only four levels of competition -- A, B, C and D -- and they are determined by the number of home runs a team is allowed per game. In the A leagues, a team is allowed five homers before each circuit blow becomes an out. In B, the limit is three homers. In C, it's one. And in D none.

If too many teams applied to play in one of those four divisions on a given night, Stanclift simply split them into two leagues and used a color to differentiate them.

For instance, two C leagues are playing on Friday nights. One is listed as C White and the other as C Red. If a third league were necessary, Stanclift would assign it another color.

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