SYLACAUGA, Ala. – For more than an hour and a half, several concerned Little League supporters addressed the Sylacauga City Council, members of the media, and audience of nearly 80 Wednesday night at City Hall.
On Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Sylacauga City Council voted 4-0 to terminate the City’s contract with the Sylacauga Little League Association. More than two weeks later, infuriated opinions and emotions to council members via social media, on the phone, and in-person resulted in a town hall meeting to hear from both Sylacauga Little League representatives and representatives from Cal Ripken Association.
“Contrary to all the hype, the city and the city council have no interest in “destroying” or authority to somehow “kill” the Little League, and we have not said that’s what we are doing,” said District 4 Councilman and Council President Lee Perryman. “Kids who want to play baseball can play baseball with any patch they want on their uniforms. As we take close looks at everything we do with city assets, and at how we can invest, we do think it’s wise to facilitate healthy discussions that will create the best, most rewarding, and most competitive experiences and facilities for the kids. That’s what we have set in motion.”
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Perryman stated the contract for Sylacauga Little League should be with Sylacauga Parks and Recreation and not directly with the City of Sylacauga.
“The one-year notice – which again is an option in the current agreement, not some one-sided city idea – simply gives us the time to have such discussions with Parks & Rec – and we haven’t started any discussions yet – and with the Little League – and to consider a proper transition aligned to playing seasons. The timing was important. Ideally, Little League could then have an agreement with Parks & Recreation, as other groups do to use city recreational facilities, and Parks & Rec could then include those facilities in master planning,” said Perryman.
“We’re all here tonight for the same thing,” said District 1 Councilman Ashton Fowler. “To discuss our sides, to be informed on other sides about each youth organization in town.”
Fowler addressed several aspects of what has transpired since October 2017 when he first met with Sylacauga Little League representatives leading up to the Dec. 19 vote including notes on a flip-chart for demonstration. “The two leagues are in this town of 12,000-plus,” said Fowler.”Yes, they both are playing and cooperating but the opportunity is too large not to look at combining leagues and having all kids play together.”
Rocky Sims, Sylacauga Little League President, said 176 boys play in Little League Baseball. Approximately 340-350 play in the League altogether including girls softball and the Challenger League. Cal Ripken President Steve Masters stated 407 played in 2017.
“He ended up saying that Little League would not get the fields back,” said Sims. “They made their bed and now they’ve got to lay in it. This is the first city council in 65 to ever pull that [legal clause in the contract]. It’s political suicide,” said Sims.
Sims said the next step for Little League is to build a facility of its own. “We don’t have anything set in stone yet but there’s enough people around here…this is just a small percentage of people that would help us out.”
“I’m glad that it got out into the public that Sylacauga Parks and Recreation did not push this agenda through,” said Masters. “The only thing I have offered as an employee [of Sylacauga Parks and Recreation] was to get these two kids back on the same field.”
Masters said the town has been split for the last several years over which league is better. “We’re willing to run whatever program our community and youth decide they want to play.”
“The difference between running it through Sylacauga Parks and Recreation is those volunteers are allowed to focus on the players of the game. They’re not forced to work concession stands, they don’t have to work on fields, order jerseys, and all the administrative side of it. We have a lot of volunteers in the program as well; we just allow them to focus on the kids,” said Masters. He said Parks and Recreation does not have loyalty to one specific program.
Due to the New Year’s holiday, the next scheduled council meeting is Thursday, Jan. 4 at 5:00 p.m. with a Planning Commission public hearing at 6:00 p.m. Regularly scheduled meetings are normally held on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.
To view the town hall meeting in its entirety, click here to view on Facebook or view the video below.