Registration season is upon us here in Rhode Island for the 2020 Spring baseball season. Local leagues from Westerly to Woonsocket, from Newport to Narragansett, from Apponaug to Washington Park are signing up youth baseball players from Tee Ball age to Teenagers. Registration campaigns are taking place online, in person, at basketball tournaments, swim meets, town halls, grocery stores, Wal-Mart checkout counters, bowling allies, social media, and birthday parties – just to name a few spots. Every league’s numbers are down and the registration trend has been declining in recent years.
Baseball is still alive and kicking in many, many communities here in Rhode Island but the concern is there for the future of our local leagues. How many more will merge into one league? Will Providence have 1 local league? How about Cranston or Warwick or Pawtucket? Will district teams merge due to low numbers like Newport and Middletown or Coventry and Exeter West Greenwich or Johnston and North Providence? Local leagues provide so much for their individual communities. It would be such a shame to close down a local league, a local league park, and cut ties with the local sponsors who have supported that league for years, even decades.
So what is being done to save local baseball leagues? I did a random search of registration fees for Tee Ball to the Majors divisions of 10 local baseball teams. The range of registration fees were $40 on the low end (for Tee ball) and $125 on the high end (for Majors division.) One league in Rhode Island has even proposed free Tee Ball registration for any returning Tee Ball age players 4-6 years of age. I found that most league registration fees are pretty consistent with other leagues. Some are straight across the board with one set fee. Others have a tiered approach with Tee Ball registration being less expensive than the Majors Division.
Here is one thought that might encourage registration for not only this upcoming season, but for seasons to follow. It follows the pay it forward concept that I love and respect whenever I see it on social media. Do something good for someone else and reward your soul and make someone else’s life better in the process. A “think outside the box” approach to generating larger numbers of registrants who can mutually benefit from doing good deeds for your league. A reward system that will benefit your league, help the registrant reduce his/her child’s registration fees, and an increase in participation, volunteerism, and community service. Here is how it would work:
You sign your child up for the 2020 Spring baseball season with your league of choice (Little League, Cal Ripken, Babe Ruth, Girls Baseball, whatever). You are then given a special packet of discounts available throughout the season which can reduce your membership for the 2021 season. In this packet are suggestions from your league as to how you and your child can improve the league and become more engaged in the game of baseball in your town/city. Suggestions might be:
- $5 off for signing up to be a volunteer in the concession stand
- $5 off for attending Field Day in the spring to get the field(s) prepped for the 2020 season
- $5 off if your child attends 75% of games and practices
- $5 off volunteer at a community service event, a fundraiser for your local food pantry
- $5 off for signing up to volunteer for your District All Star weekend tournament at your home field
- $5 off for winning your son/daughter winning the sportsmanship award
These are just some examples and I am sure I could come up with hundreds more. An incentive program for being a valued member of your local league. Let’s say you only do a few on the list and you get $15 off your membership for 2021. That is a win-win for your league because you volunteered for Field Day and helped hang all the sponsorship banners, your child attended 75% of games and practices and became an awesome pitcher, and your time spend fundraising at the home run derby netting a donation to the food pantry of 20 baskets of food for the needy. You helped out tremendously and your reward is monetary and so much more. Now, your league has a deficit on its membership bottom line, but your league is stronger because a parent, a guardian, a local team player stepped up big time to make your league better. Isn’t that worth the $15 you lost on next year’s membership registration? I believe it is.
You could also engage a local sponsor to subsidize the discounts so your league doesn’t suffer any financial loss. And you can cap the discount program at $10 or $25 or whatever your league determines would be appropriate. But, I really feel that you would get more people to sign up again for the following year if they knew that they were working towards a goal of a discount for the following year. Think about this for a moment – a parent volunteers, does the good deals, gets the discounts approved by the league. Some, perhaps, will just do it out of the kindness of their hearts. But, I believe most will look to work towards the discount goals, improve their league, save money for the 2021 campaign, and everyone wins in the process.
I hate to see these registration numbers drop year after year. Baseball is such a wonderful sport to play as a 5 year old or a 45 year old. By thinking outside the box with reduced fees and more community engagement, local leagues can profit in more ways than money. They can engage their baseball community at large and make this year great and the years to come even greater.