Rich Schneider, who’s been the spokesman of the East Hampton Town men’s slow-pitch softball league for quite a while, phoned the other day to say that the league, which has been in existence since the late 1960s, might have to fold if some more teams — there are only four at the moment — did not come forward.
In past years the town league, which replaced a fast-pitch one whose last champion was Schenck Fuels, has had as many as 14 teams in two divisions, but that was a while ago.
John Ward, who helps oversee Montauk’s popular 10-team league, and its 6-team snowflake league, which goes until mid-November, said during a conversation earlier this week that he thought there were a number of reasons behind the Amagansett league’s woes.
Not in any particular order, he said, “some teams, like the Independent, got older, a lot of the guys had scheduling problems because of work, it was expensive, at least for a while — each team had to come up with $1,700 — and the better players tended to band together, while weaker teams, who were overmatched, became discouraged.”
The Montauk teams, by contrast, played only one game a week, he said — two or three games a week are played by teams at the Terry King ball field in Amagansett — which allowed night workers to schedule nights off, and wood bats are used, limiting the number of home runs.
He had suggested similar measures to the town league’s team representatives last fall, he said, but his wood bat suggestion, or, in the alternative, a three-home run limit, after which homers would be recorded as outs, were turned down. “I saw the writing on the wall . . . I tried,” said Ward, who plays, along with his son, Hayden, on Uihlein’s team in the town’s slow-pitch league.
If the town league would not adopt wood bats, he suggested it use steel ones instead rather than the composite metal bats that it had been using. “That was the one recommendation of mine that they approved,” he said. Balls coming off the steel bats didn’t carry quite as far as those hit by the composite ones, he said. Balls off aluminum bats are said to travel about 40 feet farther than those hit by wood ones.
The wood bats have made the games in Montauk more competitive, Ward said. “The scores are like 10-8, 12-9. . . . Teams are still in the games in the seventh inning. It’s more like baseball, very competitive.”
Asked then if he thought the town league were doomed, he demurred. “When you look at that Travis Field tournament they have at Abraham’s Path every summer and the 16 teams that play in it, you’d have to wonder about that. There are obviously people out there who want to play.”