Albany - A tight budget may keep Albany Little Leaguers on the bench. Baseball league leaders are asking city commissioners to pitch some money their way.
Thousands of Dougherty County boys and girls play little league baseball every spring. But, many children can't afford the $30 registration fee. So today, two leagues urged the city to help with these cost.
Tempers soared during the city commission meeting as little league leaders argued the city should help pay for kids to play ball. "We've seen a decline in players," said International League Vice President Gil Jones. "We used to have about 30 teams and now we're down to about 12 teams. The reason is the cost. Most of our 120 kids can't pay the $30 registration fee."
Two of Albany's five baseball leagues asked the city for $14,000 to pay umpires, who haven't been paid for last season. "We save the city money by volunteering to run these leagues. All we're asking from the city is that they pay for our umpires. We'll raise the money to buy the equipment," said Jones.
The City pays for umpires for the Junior Varsity American Legion teams and 13-14 Dixie teams, but not the 12 and under teams. Other leagues say that's not fair. "The city used to run the Legion and 13-14 Dixie teams, so now we co-sponsor the programs and pay the umpires," said Recreation Director Ken Williams. "We are actually saving the city money because we used to pay for the entire league."
The City pays the utilities and maintains the fields at all the ballparks. He says the leagues should find sponsors to pay for the umpires. "I believe there are still business that will sponsor little league baseball so the city doesn't have to subsidize the cost," said Williams.
"If commissioners won't help pay for these kids to play ball now, they'll end up paying for them to be housed in jail in years to come," said Jones. "Baseball keeps children off the streets and out of trouble."
City commissioners tentatively agreed to pay the umpires for last season, but made no promise to pay for baseball officials next year. Commissioners also discussed making American Legion teams and Dougherty County school teams pay utilities and maintenance cost to use the fields to free money to help struggling leagues.