Craig Garland, president of the Massapequa Coast Little League, is focused on making baseball enjoyable for his players.
“We have about 90 teams in the league, and are probably the biggest program in Nassau County,” said Garland of Massapequa Coast Little League, which also runs a Challengers program for physically and mentally challenged kids. “Some of our players on those teams are as old as 30, but it’s not based on age, it’s based on the learning disability they have, so a group of people of all different ages can play the game together.”
In regards to the popularity of Little League ball now versus 10 years ago, Garland said that there are more distractions for kids these days.
“There are so many more travel teams that have evolved, which create conflicts for the kids that want to play Little League,” he said. “Travel teams are also usually very expensive and they only accept a certain commitment level. Our league has a travel team in the summer and a fall ball program as well.”
The Massapequa Coast Little League’s approach to game play is simple: have fun. While Garland said that the league’s approach is on a national basis, there are other options for kids who want to play intramurals.
“Some programs let the coaches yell at the kids and bury the worst kid in right field and those are the kids that quit,” said Garland. “We incorporate a ton of fair play rules. Even for the most competitive coach, we have a mandatory batting order rotation and mandatory infield positioning, so our players can’t sit two consecutive innings on defense.”
According to Garland, the only paid individuals in the program are the umpires. Coaches and all board members are solely volunteers. As for the seasonal fee, Garland said that each kid gets his money’s worth.
“Within the past 10 years, our fees have increased $5. T-ball through senior division we charge from $85-$115 for the whole season and our Challenger program is $15,” said Garland of the league fees, which includes outfitting the kids with socks, pants, jerseys and hats that they keep. “For our noncompetitive divisions, we don’t keep score and we have an end of the season picnic where every kid gets a participation trophy. In our competitive division, we have an awards dinner. If they won a championship they get a jacket with their name on it and a plaque.”
With so many people interested in joining, Garland said that the Massapequa Coast Little League is only open to residents, strictly Massapequa and Massapequa Park south of Sunrise Highway.
“From a national standpoint, enrollment is down about 15-20 percent. Last year, our league was down 12 kids,” said Garland. “For us, it’s about the kid who is your average kid who wants to have fun. You have to make it fun and rewarding for that kid and if you don’t, you’re doing something wrong.”