The early 1990’s saw more than 350 children play baseball at National Little League in Oaklands. Today, those numbers have dwindled to just over 100 players, and National Little League is on the verge of collapse.
National Little League vice-president Don Moore, who has been with the organization for 39 years, said the league has never seen so few players register.
“I have no idea where the kids are,” Moore said. “They’re just not coming out. I fear within two years our league will be folding if we don’t get the community behind us.”
National Little League was the first Little League organization in Victoria when it started play in May 1953. The first game saw more than 3,000 spectators show up to cheer the kids on.
The league started with four teams and had a waiting list. “Some kids never got to play that first year because they were on a reserve list,” Moore said.
Over the years, the league expanded with 1992 the banner year for participation with 30 teams and a girls’ program. The league also won its share of regional and provincial championships.
Moore believes there are a few reasons why the league has seen lower registration numbers, but the one thing that shouldn’t be hampering registration is the cost of the program. Little League is one of the few sports programs in Canada which allows any child to play regardless of their financial situation.
“For kids now a days there are so many others things going on,” Moore said. “We can get some new kids into the program, but the problem is once they get older they find other things to do.”
The Victoria neighbourhood also has many single-parent families and immigrants.
National Little League has begun an outreach program hosting coaching clinics with kids throughout the year. The league has also been weeding out coaches who have a win-at-all cost mentality, replacing them with coaches who make baseball fun and who teach the basics of the sport.
“I feel that if the kids enjoy themselves they’ll be back the following year,” Moore said.
“I think once you convince a kid to try baseball, you’ll get them hooked – if you approach them the right way.”
Moore said ideally he would like to see the league return to a player roster of between 150 to 200 kids.
Little League Canada didn’t not respond to interview requests.
National Little League opened its season today, but it isn’t too late to register. You can contact Moore by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.