The Alpena Huron Shores Little League and Alpena Babe Ruth announced Tuesday that they will merge into a single entity, Alpena Huron Shore Babe Ruth beginning this spring.
The merge will allow the new league to cover a wider area and allow more kids to participate. It will follow the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken model in an effort to provide more opportunities for youth baseball and softball players.
"I think it's a good thing for the community and the kids in the community," AHSBR President Dane Werth said. "We've had growth every year (for the last decade) and this allows us to serve all the kids in Alpena County.
Kids that lived west of Herron Road, on the border of Hillman and Alpena and attended Alpena Public Schools previously only had the option of playing in the Hillman Little League program. The merge will opens opportunities to kids living on those borders.
This is the second merge of youth baseball leagues in recent years after Huron Shores Little League joined with Alpena Little League nearly 10 years ago. The AHSLL has discussed the idea of expansion for the last few years and was approached by Alpena Babe Ruth about a merge last fall.
"It gives kids more opportunities and lets them player a longer season," former Babe Ruth President Bill Hawley said. "It will make the house leagues stronger and it will get more kids involved."
In addition to expanding the coverage area to include more kids, the new entity is also looking to expand its age limits for baseball and softball. Baseball is currently offered up to age 18 and softball is offered up to age 16, though the possibility of a 16-18 division for softball is being discussed.
The house league and travel baseball opportunities that are currently available will continue to be available in the spring.
League administrators are also hopeful that playing on modified fields in some instances will enhance competition and the seasons for most teams will also be longer.
The Alpena Huron Shore Babe Ruth board will have a meeting next week to discuss specifics before the start of the 2013 season, but members are excited for the possibilities created by the merge.
"I have mixed emotions, but I think it will be good in the long run. It wasn't that Little League was a bad thing, it was just time for a change," AHSBR Information Director Malinda Amlotte said. "I'll miss Little League because it's all I've ever known, but I think we can make this great too."