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Recap of year two of Cal Ripken League
Seen here is some of the action between Dupuis and the Red Sox. The teams split the best-of-three finals, but the third game was never played, leaving the teams as co-champs for this year. (Times photos by Bruce Farrin)
RIVER VALLEY -- When entering a new endeaver, there is always pitfalls which need to be addressed and that has certainly been the case on the baseball diamond. However, things are headed in the right direction.
This is the second year of Cal Ripken organized baseball for the Little League kids in this area and the growing pains have been prevalent, but the differences are being worked out.
''It has been an interesting transition and somewhat tumultuous,'' said Ed Paterson, who has served as league president. ''But change isn't always smooth. This area had been a hybrid league that used a variety of rules to accommodate the players and dynamics of the communities involved.''
The Greater Rumford Community Center for years had run both a Little League and a Farm League program. However, neither was a sanctioned or certified program. Being associated with the Cal Ripkin organization has provided credibility to the area. The former league's rules were similar to traditional Little League, but with many exceptions, due to length of season, amount of players, amount of teams.
''Since our area (River Valley) is small with a limit of players, age brackets have to be group to allow enough teams to participate,'' said Paterson. ''This isn't the same in areas like Lewistion/Auburn or Portland. As a Cal Ripken program, we still have run into similar issues.''
The River Valley is only able to have a Major League (ages 9-12) and a Minor League (ages 6-10). Each of the leagues are segmented based on both age and ability and there is overlap in the 9- and 10-year-old group.
Cal Ripken uses four divisions -- t-ball, rookie, minor league and major league. A few of teams here barely could put a Major League team together; due to these situations and a few players who should have been at a minor league level had to play up. Additionally, it was a challenge getting all the towns involved on the same page and platform using a unified approach.
In a positive response, this area have stepped up the requirements for coaching in the league and increased the number of certified umpires available. The All-star teams have been very competitive in the district tournaments, but because off a lack of participation, they have not been able to have all-stars from all age divisions, 9-12. The quality of coaches in these programs have been superior, which is a change from past programs, as the league hand picks the coaches.
The level of play in the league is still developing. The interest in baseball in our area has declined over the years, so there is a collective effort to rebuild the interest in the program.
Paterson said rules of Cal Ripken are similar to Little League. There are some differences, like no out for leaving a base early, just an adjustment to what would have happened had the player not left early. Little League is much more popular throughout the country and the state. However, Cal Ripken is growing. In Maine, it tends to be more popular in rural areas, Farmington, Skowhegan, Topsham, South Paris, etc. Little League is more well known in Bangor, Lewiston/Auburn and Portland.
''We also have some rules that are specific to our league,'' said Paterson, which Cal Ripken encourages. ''Like free defensive substitution and double slotting or continuous batting order. We will continue to try to adjust our league rules to mirror Cal Ripken as long as it is practical and realistic for all players.''
Some Cal Ripken rules are more conducive to an all-star type of play, which is not the norm in the league.