ELLSWORTH — After going through a relatively smooth transition period last year, Little League International’s foothold in the city of Ellsworth is finally ready to take another new step: taking the field.
Ellsworth is set to continue its affiliation with Little League International this summer under a new charter, Ellsworth Little League. With the start of the season a month away, baseball and softball players, coaches and fans aren’t too far off from the arrival of a different look for baseball and softball in the city.
“We’ve taken the steps to make sure everything has gotten off smoothly,” League President Colie Haskell said. “Ellsworth is a community where people volunteer and pitch in to help, and we’ve put together a well-rounded board.”
The Ellsworth Little League was formed after the Down East Family YMCA Little League began its disbandment process last summer. That move came after an Ellsworth City Council decision that cut the annual allocation to DEFY.
Right away, former DEFY Little League board members began plans for a new league to keep the sport thriving at the youth level in Ellsworth. Beginning with a transition process in September, DEFY Little League’s Todd Wagstaff got the ball rolling on finding a new board that could be up and running by November.
Before long, an 11-person board came together with Haskell, who moved to Ellsworth from Milbridge seven years ago, as president. With a fondness for Ellsworth and a baseball-playing son of his own, Haskell felt said he wanted to give back to the community.
“When they asked me at the board meeting, I thought, ‘You know, I’d really like to get involved,’” Haskell said. “I’ve really come to like the Ellsworth area, and it was time for me to step up and volunteer my time.”
Given Ellsworth’s status as home to one of the top leagues in Downeast Maine, getting a new charter and filling out the paperwork was easy with the help of the old board members. Since then, the league’s primary task has been moving on from the transition phase and preparing for the season ahead.
“Most of what’s been done early on has been focused on fundraising, administrative and safety stuff,” League Marketing Manager Lyndsy Clough said. “We correspond daily and have been meeting more and more frequently as the season gets closer.”
Although the name and charter for the league are new, much has stayed the same. Ellsworth Little League will draw players from the same boundaries as DEFY Little League, and the team will continue to face off against teams from Machias, Bar Harbor, Blue Hill and other areas throughout Downeast Maine.
“We’ve really made it our big objective to build off what the Y built,” Clough said. “The Y did a great job before us, and it’s important for us to make the types of changes that enhance the experience while still keeping what made the Y league such a great program.”
Yet a few changes in particular are on the horizon. In addition to improving the game-day experience for the fans with modifications to the fields and snack shacks, the league has its sights set on advancing its social media presence and introducing a new website.
Another of those changes will be altering the league’s team names to further emphasize the city of Ellsworth. The new classification of teams via names such as Ellsworth Red, Ellsworth Blue and so on is a departure from DEFY’s use of MLB team monikers.
“We want our kids to be able to wear that Ellsworth name with pride,” Haskell said. “When we go to Bangor, Westbrook or wherever else for tournaments, we want the teams there to know where we come from.”
Registration for Ellsworth Little League will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, at the Moore Community Center. The league’s placement day is scheduled for March 31, and it won’t be long before the games will begin for a city that’s produced numerous district titles on the baseball and softball diamonds.
“Little League means a lot here, and we have a big standard to uphold,” Haskell said. “We’re excited to see the games played on the field.”