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Jonesborough Little League growth an uphill climb

By CHRIS SHIELDS
Sports Writer
For the children of Jonesborough Little League, baseball is in full swing with the county league experiencing a record number of participants this year.
The Jonesborough Little League boasts three leagues with 23 total teams actively participating in America’s greatest pastime.
The increase in numbers however, has brought with it growing pains for the children, parents and league administrators.
One of the hot-button issues concerning the league’s development has been centered on the increase in T-ball participants and the shared venue with the Jonesborough Middle School softball team.
According to Rachel Conger, director of Jonesborough Parks and Recreation, the increase in Little League numbers, mixed with the frequent rain the area, has experienced this spring has created a scheduling crisis among the two leagues, putting them at odds.
“It is very difficult to reschedule these games that have been rained out,” Conger said. “The middle school gets priority due to the increase in competition, but I fully understand the Little League’s frustration with the issue.”
Conger acknowledged the sharing of the field between the T-ball teams and the middle school is a scheduling nightmare for anyone associated with either of the leagues.
Jonesborough Little League President Bill Bennion has seen the problem firsthand, but doesn’t place blame on the town for the conflict.
“Parks and Recreation have been phenomenal to work with,” he said. “The problem comes down to too many people using too few fields. I know a lot of people are upset that the schools are allowed to play on the fields but they have agreed to have them just as they have to have us,” Bennion said.
Land is available at the park for potential use, but the project would require a lot of development to make the area usable.
Still, Bennion would like to see the number of Little League participants continue to grow, establishing a goal for the league at a 30 percent increase in children.
“With that growth, we could split the participants in the current 9-12 age group at 9-10 and 11-12,” he said. “We could then start chartering a 13-14 age league.”
Bennion said the reason the little league isn’t available for a higher age group yet is because of other organizations using the only field large enough to accompany the age range.
The Jonesborough Little League currently includes participants ranging in age from 4 to 12.
“It is good for the kids to be out playing baseball instead of doing something inside,” Bennion said. “We are able to keep the kids local and want to provide an affordable opportunity that anyone who wants to can participate in.”
The current season continues, with games being played during the week and on Saturdays at Persimmon Ridge Park.