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Two softball leagues are asking to use the same fields this summer; the Selectman asked them iron out their differences.

Adams Selectman Ask Softball Leagues To Compromise

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Selectmen refused to take sides in the softball league dispute.

ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen on Wednesday declined to step into a dispute between two local softball leagues, tabling a vote on field usage until April.

There was a full room Wednesday of parents and coaches from the Lassie League and the newly established Adams-Cheshire Savoy League that both requested the use of Russell and Reid fields because they are unwilling to rejoin as a single league.

"It's time for grownups to be grownups and we are not here to be mediators," Selectman Joseph Nowak said. "We know everyone out there wants the best for the children and you have to come together."

Because of a dispute in the long-standing Lassie League, some disgruntled parents and coaches split, formed their own board and began soliciting registrations until they received a cease-and-desist letter because they were still operating under the trademarked Lassie League name.

They then formed as the Adams-Cheshire-Savoy League.

Earlier this month, during another heated meeting, the Parks Commission denied the field use request of the ACS with a 4-1 vote. The recommendation then went to the Selectmen for final say, however, the board requested that the two leagues try to work it out and come back together before the selectmen make a ruling in April.

"I am of the mind that we still have a month before people start playing softball so we have a month to work this out because it is not in the town's best interest to split this league up," Chairman Jeffrey Snoonian said. "It kills me that you can't come to some compromise, and all I heard was that it is about the kids but it clearly is not."  

This is not the board's first time mediating feuding factions within youth athletic leagues. Late last year, the Selectmen mediated a meeting with the Police Athletic League after the league split in two after, again, disagreements between coaches, organizers and parents.

Lou Moser, with the ACS, said his group's main concern was the Lassie League's structure — the league has a self-appointed board while the ACS holds an election.

"The crux of what we did was based on the parents in the league wanting to see changes in the organization of the league," Moser said. "We went as far to have a petition signed so it did not appear to be a witch-hunt. Seventy-five percent of the parents signed and this all could have been remedied with elections to the board."

Corey Bishop, with the Lassie League, said the league has a self-appointed self-perpetuating board that has worked since the league's beginnings. When someone steps down from the board, the board appoints a new member.

He added that the league is already established and has made connections with the community and improvements to town fields.

"We would like to mend this league 100 percent. It is the only reason that I am here standing here tonight," Bishop said. "We feel that it is very important and just because of a few disgruntled people, children should not be held back from playing in a well-established and in a well-qualified league."

He also questioned if the ACS was as prepared to play ball.

"We just finished up our winter league, we just finished playing ball, I am not sure what the other folks are doing but we have a committed schedule," Bishop said. "We have already been approved for field use and we are worried about these folks giving false hopes to parents and players."

He added that fragmenting the league will only make it harder for both leagues to field teams with the area's diminishing population.

Cynthia Bird, with the Lassie League, said the league has worked hard to accomplish a vision that really expands opportunities for young softball players. She said North Adams, Williamstown, Dalton, Clarksburg, Florida, Hinsdale, Lanesborough and Savoy are involved with the league.

She said she feared this vision could be undone.

"I question the vision they have because their field usage request is just through the middle of July, which would only be house, while the Lassie League has taken on a grander vision," she said. "We incorporated tournaments and we have three booked. One is a national qualifier that will be held right here."

Moser said because this is the ACS's inaugural year, it has yet to really establish its own vision.

He reiterated that they just want a chance for different people to get involved in the league.

"This more about the process than the people," Moser said. "We want people who have other ideas and to have an opportunity to run for a position that they are passionate about."

Moser also noted that the Lassie League did not have a 501(c)3 and was concerned about donations it may be accepting.

"We thought it was in our best interest to start a new league because if the league is accepting fees and donations they have to be filed as a nonprofit," he said. "We don't want to take on the liability for shoddy finances."

The Lassie League treasurer said, like many small athletic leagues, the Lassie League is a "Miscellanies Exempt Nonprofit" and is covered.

Parks Commissioner James Fassell, who voted in favor of the Lassie League, said he could see both sides of the argument but did not think it was right for the league to just split.

"I never saw this coming ... You have a great league going with great coaches at the high school level and you have a great feeder program," Fassell said. "You got some ringers and now we want to figure out who is going to run it. ... I agree with the splinter group with what they want to do but I can't see the 'if I don't get it my way I am going to take my ball and go home.'"

Snoonian asked that the two leagues to reunite for a year so the girls can play softball and, during that time, hash out their differences and form a compromise before they force the Selectmen to vote.

"When the kids start playing everything is fine because the girls are having fun," he said. "Over the year, you work out a concrete plan so next year you come in as the Adams Lassie League and it is kumbaya and you are all together."

In other business, residents of Pinnacle Park mobile home park filled out a large portion of Wednesday's crowd to air their concerns during public comment about dust issues in the park from Dukes Sand and Gravel.

Residents said the dust is so bad, it sets off smoke detectors, covers windshields, clogs vents and they sometimes have to mow their lawns with masks on.

Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said both the town and state Department of Environmental Protection are involved in the process and the town recently issued an order violation through the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Duke's Gravel has been clearing trees outside of its allowable perimeter.

"I know the first time the DEP went up there they were'nt that receptive but I sat in on a conference call with them last week and they are taking it a little more seriously now," Mazzucco said. "Somebody above the level of inspector was out here last ... we are taking this very seriously."  

Snoonian said he would like to set up a community meeting to update the residents on DEP's and local inspectors' progress. He added that he wants Duke's owner to attend.

Tags: public parks,   softball,   sports fields,   sports leagues,   youth sports,   

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