The Senior League World Series has been a summertime staple in Bangor for the past fifteen years. With Little League Baseball’s decision to abolish their Big League division, the SLWS will be held in Easley, South Carolina beginning in 2017. The world series’ departure leaves an incredible void for the greater Bangor baseball community.
So what could this mean for baseball in the area years from now? Without speaking with the powers that be, this week I’ll explore what the absence of this event could signify for our area. I won’t be making any brash predictions, just writing out loud as far as what could happen.
Yes, Mansfield Stadium will continue to host games and will still be one of the crown jewels in the area. While the Senior League World Series was certainly the stadium’s major event, keep in mind the ballpark still hosts another 150 or so games per season. Mansfield Stadium has always been well maintained by a dedicated crew for ten years before the world series came to Bangor. This will not change, at least for the foreseeable future.
Some of the major improvements to the stadium over the years have been implemented perhaps in part to the world series’ presence. Prior to the SLWS arriving in 2002 a press box was installed. Over the years the sound system was upgraded, a new scoreboard and message board was added, and this year chair back seating was installed.
The staff at Mansfield Stadium is a dedicated one indeed. Field director Ron St. Pierre, stadium manager David Mansfield, Jim Owens, and countless others put in a great deal of time and effort to ensure the stadium is always in top notch condition. While they certainly are not ready to be set out to pasture, they are not young. Once their time is done will there be someone or someones to step into the gap and pick up where they leave off? Without a major event will the city of Bangor take as much of an interest in the ballpark?
Participation in baseball statewide and nationally has been dwindling. Having the SLWS in Bangor for the past fifteen years has stemmed the tide of sorts in the area. Many youngsters have come to the ballpark each August to watch these star players with a desire to be in the series themselves. I don’t think there is any question the overall quality of baseball in the Bangor area has benefited by having the SLWS in our backyard.
Most communities in Maine play in the Little League program through age twelve before splitting off in other directions. Maine District 3 Little League, which encompasses Penobscot and Aroostook Counties, has been a stalwart for Junior and Senior League Baseball for years. So, what could be the long term future for those programs?
Certainly, participation in Senior League has been bolstered by the world series. There was that carrot at the end for the district champion to advance directly to the world series. Many of the players who played for the host team over the years also played for another baseball organization during the summer, in most cases American Legion Baseball. With the absence of the world series we likely will not see as much dual participation. It will likely be more difficult to play both going forward since the district champion will now have to win a state and regional tournament to advance to the world series in South Carolina. This would also mean having to play the district tournament earlier, right in the middle of the Legion season.
While Junior and Senior League baseball have been on solid footing for many years locally, the state’s baseball landscape has changed significantly in the last fifteen years. At present, Senior League Baseball only has a statewide presence in the aforementioned District 3 and District 1, which encompasses Hancock and Washington Counties. Babe Ruth Baseball, for those who have aged out of traditional Little League, rules in central and southern Maine. Over the past several seasons American Legion Baseball has been offering Junior Legion for their younger players. Other players opt to participate in AAU or showcase events. Without the world series, how many potential players will choose to go in those directions instead?
While the Senior League World Series does leave a void, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities for Mansfield Stadium to host another major baseball event in the future. Who knows what the future holds and what the baseball landscape in the Bangor region will look like years from now?
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