After recent correspondence and meetings as well as additional leg work and phone calls, the Executive Committee has gathered additional opinions and information. We continued reaching out to get input and comments from different baseball programs across the state to get their stance on our senior program moving to a 17U age division. After lengthy discussions within the Executive Committee and Baseball Committee, it was determined we should relook at the transition to 17U for the 2022 season. The Baseball Committee, upon the recommendation of the Executive Committee, has delayed the transition to 17U to continue discussions with baseball organizations across the state and will revisit the decision during the annual meeting Sunday, 8/21/2022, at 10 AM, Madison VFW Post 2638 (510 S. Washington Ave). We highly encourage all age divisions’ baseball programs that participate in our 2022 VFW Baseball season to attend.
The Department of SD VFW Baseball strongly believes making this decision is in the best interest of the young athletes across the state. We’re focused on growing baseball in SD and want to keep it alive in our small communities by providing more choices for players to compete in quality events. However, the Baseball Committee has come to the realization many communities oppose it and are not ready for this change. VFW Baseball will be developing an expanded plan and then communicate the proposed changes with our teams during the second half of our 2022 season.
We appreciate the I-90 league. They met last week and decided as collective group to vote on this change and draft a position paper to send to VFW Baseball. The paper demonstrated the amount of opposition along the I-90 corridor and the need for us to better communicate our position and plan.
VFW Baseball had a couple of conversations with the American Legion Commissioner, Dan Sudbek. As it stands now, the Legion may be making decisions that impact both programs’ futures negatively attempting to provide a solution when the need is already being met. It is not as if the VFW is not affording teams an opportunity. It’s just the opposite. By trying to align age cut offs with Legion, the VFW is attempting to allow more opportunities for all kids to play. Initially, communities without Legion teams would probably benefit the most from our change. With that said, we understand the American Legion’s financial incentive to bring in additional teams. However, we don’t understand their blindness to the unintended consequences this action would have on youth baseball development and feeder system/environment to their senior program for the past 62 years.
Our 8U through the senior age divisions provides the character and skill development necessary for quality play for the Senior American Legion teams. Eventually this action by the American Legion and baseball organizations switching programs, could lead to the demise of our current town baseball culture in SD which will then speed the transition to travel baseball only.
The American Legion and VFW Baseball should be working together, as partners, for the good of SD Baseball not creating conflict. Baseball organizations across the state shouldn’t be “playing one parent against the other” either. Neither is healthy for South Dakota Baseball. VFW Baseball Executive Committee will be working to get a sit-down meeting with the American Legion Baseball Administration to figure out how we can work together. VFW Baseball is not the same organization it was 5 years ago. Hopefully, you’ve seen an improvement in our organization, processes and even our communication, most of the time. We’re human and make mistakes. We try to own them as best we can. We consistently try to be better each day, month and season.
Our concern is the potential for severe skill and performance loss if a large number of teams left our program as well as a financial hit to VFW Baseball. Reminder, the Department of SD VFW Baseball is independent from the Department of SD VFW, with revenue generated by the SD VFW Baseball program put back into the VFW Baseball and not into the Department of SD VFW general fund. This independence allows us to invest in our youth grant programs and veterans’ programs as well as our communities of the year. This independence also provides us with the ability to establish our own rules and guidelines with our communities, associations and teams’ input. VFW Baseball is also able to create innovative partnerships with other organizations such as the Sioux Falls Canaries and REZBATS. In addition, this financial independence is the reason we were able to restart the All Star Game with Showcase this year.
The Department of SD VFW Baseball reserves the right to act on what we truly feel is right for the program while balancing the opinions and input we gather from the communities participating in our program.
Again, after many hours of phone calls, discussion, consideration and prayer, we have opted to keep our senior division at 16U for the 2022 season. As stated earlier, the Baseball Committee will revisit the 17U discussion at the annual meeting Sunday, 8/21/2022. We fully expect and encourage conversations during our 2022 VFW Baseball Season.
One last discussion item and emphasis. The Department of SD VFW Baseball is working on our MISSION STATEMENT. Below is our draft:
Provide an environment for our teams and players to develop good character first and solid baseball skills second
Colonel (USAF, ret)
SD VFW Baseball Chairman
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