The Executive Boards of Bernon and East Woonsocket Little Leagues have announced plans to merge each league for the 2014 Season into one "Woonsocket Little League,” according to a recent release.
"Over the past few seasons, both boards have worked tirelessly to improve our leagues," the release reads.
After several discussions, the Board of Directors of both leagues unanimously voted for a merger, allowing them to work together and pool resources to provide a better playing experience and a stronger foundation for the next level of baseball in Woonsocket.
There have been several attempts to merge in the past, and there were reasons that it was not possible then. Each league has noticed the number of players dwindling over the past several years. Last season Bernon had 250 players in the baseball program and East Woonsocket had 310 players (including about 50 from the softball program).
“Although we have many younger players, they seem to drop off in numbers as they get to the older and more competitive divisions,” according to the release. Both leagues only had three teams in the Major Division last year.
In previous years there have been 5 and 6 major teams. Bernon has been creative in keeping the play interesting, by playing inter-league with both North Smithfield and East Woonsocket for the past two years. However, with budget issues in the city and travel for Inter-league play, it made sense to merge the two leagues and unite city baseball under one league, according to little league officials.
The boards believe that the city's baseball and softball program will be strengthened by a merger, according to the release.
Beginning in January 2013, a committee consisting of members from each board will begin building the framework for the new league to be formed in October 2013. During this process, both leagues will continue to operate independently. The goal, the release states, is to join the leagues while honoring the history of each program.
“Knowing a merger can create many challenges and questions, we ask that you remain patient as we proceed. Your comments, questions and concerns are greatly appreciated as we go through this process.
Once the merger is complete, the new "Woonsocket Little League" will elect a new board in October 2013 to oversee the 2014 season.
There is still work to be done before the merger becomes official, including approval at the state and national level. Both boards will be working together on the plan that will be submitted for approval. The goal is to have the merger in place when the 2014 season begins.