Little League baseball first appeared in Ashe County in 1981, and after 33 years, Ashe County Parks and Recreation has decided to take the local youth baseball and softball programs in a different direction.
According to ACPR Director Scott Turnmyre, plans began last fall to make a change to the programs. All members of the Ashe County Little League board and each coach were involved in the process.
“Little League national provides restrictions for us, based on the number of kids. It was time to make a change to a different league,” said Turnmyre.
On average, between 350 and 400 young boys and girls played Little League baseball or softball each season.
Ashe’s young baseball and softball players will now be competing in the Tar Heel League, based out of Smithfield, N.C.
Turnmyre said that the new league changes the draft procedures, which have been a problem in the past. Also, the Tar Heel League allows for much more flexibility with local rules such as the number of players on teams, the number of teams in the league and the facilities that are used.
Alleghany County and Watauga County have already made the switch to the Tar Heel League.
The new draft procedure will allow for coaches to grade players based on a tryout, and the coaches will choose players after that.
Another key reason why ACPR made the switch is because they can now run the program, whereas Little League would not allow that. Little League was controlled by the board members. Turnmyre said that was one reason why many other area counties have moved away from Little League.
ACPR already collected the registration fees, paid officials and provided uniforms for the teams, however the strict rules of Little League forced the change.
With neighboring counties being in the same league, Ashe County teams can now have the ability to play Watauga and Alleghany teams, and more teams will qualify for postseason play.
Registration will continue for Tar Heel League t-ball, coach pitch, minor league and major league until March 10.
*Nathan Ham can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @NathanHam87