The East Hampton Town men’s slow-pitch league, which is down to five entries, has put out a call for a few more good teams. Whether they will materialize is questionable, but league officials are hoping, given the success each summer of the Travis Field memorial scholarship tournaments, that they may.
“We’re down to five teams now. We had six last year,” said the league’s spokesman, Rich Schneider, who can remember the days when 14 teams played in two divisions at the Terry King ball field in Amagansett.
The dropout from last year is the Independent, the league’s storied team under various banners in the past 20 years. Some of its players, such as Barry Mackin, Tim Brenneman, Ken Weldon, and Rob Nicoletti — the latter two especially — go back even further.
Schenck Fuels broke the Independent’s string of playoff victories last August, though when Indy won the trophy in 2010, it was the team’s third straight championship and its fourth in the past five years. Moreover, that title was the 20th for Weldon, a 75-year-old pitcher, who, according to Nicoletti, went 6-0 last season and was ready to play again this year for the Independent had it fielded a team.
Nicoletti, who recently turned 56, said, “Kenny and I have played together for 38 years. Before that, he coached me for three years in Babe Ruth baseball.”
While in recent years the team was bolstered by the addition of its older players’ sons — Zach and Tyler Brenneman, Pierce and Peyton Kelley, and Charlie Collins among them — they have decamped, or are about to.
When asked why he thought the enthusiasm for slow-pitch softball had waned in East Hampton, Schneider said, “There are probably many reasons. Probably the fee [at $1,600 the past two years] is part of the problem. The Parks Department still mows the outfield grass, but they don’t maintain the infield or the batter’s box. Matt Bennett, one of the umpires, does that. They used to give us all of our softballs, then they gave us half, and now none. The town’s cutting corners — it’s all part of the economic downturn here.”
The need to make hay while the sun shines also may have led to a slackening of interest in playing three nights a week, he said. “A lot of these guys have to work long hours. They may not have the time, though we could be more accommodating with the schedule.”
Then, too, people were growing older and moving away, and many of the young reportedly can’t afford to stay. Then baseball’s not necessarily the sport anymore, what with soccer and lacrosse grabbing the attention of the young.
When a similar question was posed to Nicoletti, who also plays in Montauk’s seven-team league, which he described as competitive though more casual, he said, “People are just getting old; they’re not moving away.”
Schneider, who can be contacted through the East Hampton Village Police Department, said the next meeting for managers, sponsors, and players is to be at the village’s Emergency Services Building on Tuesday at 7 p.m.