Oldsmar Little League is looking to bounce back after a suffering through few rough years recently.
For several years, Oldsmar Little League has been trending downward, to use today’s popular vernacular.
Previous board members had mismanaged monies, leading to a debt of more than $7,000 the league owed the City on its lease agreement, and bound-ary restrictions set up by Little League International were partly to blame for a severe decline in participation, especially at the older age levels.
But today, with new leadership in place, board members are attempting to rebuild the relationship between the league and the City in hopes of nursing Oldsmar’s Little League baseball program back to health.
“We want to use this opportunity as a way to get to know one another, to explain the challenges we’ve faced in recent seasons, and to open the communication channel with everyone who’s a resident of Oldsmar,” OLL board member Larry Arellano told city officials, including all five city council members, during a special workshop on Tuesday, November 10.
Arellano and fellow league representatives outlined the past, present and what the future (hopefully) holds for Oldsmar Little League, an organization that was started with a major fundraising campaign in the late 90s-early aughts that raised more than $800,000.
Oldsmar Little League board members recently met with City officials to discuss the state of the league.
Since then, mismanagement, and being stuck in a district that is largely made up of commercial and conservation area, has caused a severe decline in registration and also damaged the league’s relationships with parents and city officials.
“For a while, we had certain bad things that weren’t right,” league liaison Abel Fonte said.
OLL liaison Abel Fonte.
“But in the past, the relationship between the league and the City had been a very good one, and that’s my goal, to get back to that.”
In addition to the decline in registration, other issues plaguing the league, according to board members, include poor field conditions; the cost of the monthly utility bill; the lack of special tournaments that bring in much needed concession revenues; and the loss of a field and parking spaces due to the construction of the adjacent Oldsmar BMX supercross track at Canal Park.
“I think player retention is the biggest issue here,” Vice-Mayor Gabby McGee said. “You are having a problem retaining players as they get older.”
Are the kids even here to play?” Mayor Doug Bevis asked.
League president Bill Steele said the kids are here, but they leave the league as they get older for a variety of reasons, namely the fact that Oldsmar does not have its own middle or high school.
“We lost a lot of kids this year,” Steele said. “We had no majors, juniors, seniors or intermediate level teams.”
Oldsmar’s Little League facilities are located at Canal Park on Tampa Road.
“We’ve turned into a development program for Countryside, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, because that’s where the older kids go to school,” John Gardner, a coach and vice-president of the juniors and seniors level, said.
“We want this league to be a part of Oldsmar, because we represent Oldsmar Little League, not East Lake or Clearwater or Tarpon Springs.”
While everyone admitted it would be a long road to climb to get OLL back to where it was, officials expressed hope for the future of the league and said they would do whatever they can to help them get back to prominence, including seeking sponsorships for teams and appearing at registration sessions and games.
A plaque that hangs at the Oldsmar Little League fields.
“The board has never been this good since I’ve been here,” Council member Linda Norris said. “It sounds like you are much more communicative, and we need to keep that communication open and keep these kids playing.”
“We were ready to pull the plug on Oldsmar Little League, and now we’re ready to pull you off life support,” Mayor Bevis said.
After the meeting, OLL board members expressed optimism for the future based on the work session.
“Obviously, it went very well,” Arellano told Oldsmar Connect. “I think our biggest objective was to open the line of communication, because there’s always been a lack of communication, but we didn’t expect that much feedback.”
“The league has had a bad perception for a long time, but the outlook is now very promising.”