Members of the Down East Family YMCA Little League 9-10 softball team pose for a photo with their championship banner after winning the 2014 District 1 championship. Along with the 11-12 baseball team, the 9-10 softball team has been one of the DEFY Little League’s strongest teams in recent years. Because of $20,000 in DEFY funding cuts, the league will vote to disband sometime in the coming months. A new league, which will be separate from the YMCA, will form in its place. DOWN EAST FAMILY YMCA PHOTO

New Little League Program to form in Ellsworth

ELLSWORTH — In the aftermath of a recent Ellsworth City Council decision that cut the annual allocation to the Down East Family YMCA, Little League International’s future in the city is set to undergo a major transformation.

DEFY Little League board members are planning multiple meetings in the next three months that will disband the league and create a new league separate from the YMCA. The decision comes after DEFY made the decision to remove its support of the Little League International program at its July meeting.

That decision was occasioned by the reduction in funding from Ellsworth. Little League International is one of DEFY’s most costly operations, and the organization voted to remove its participation in order to deal with the cut in city support.

On Aug. 17, a vote will be held to disband the league and create a new one its place. A week later, a second meeting will be held to create a board for the new league, which DEFY Little League Vice President Todd Wagstaff said will likely be named Ellsworth Little League.

“It would be a new league with a new board and everything,” Wagstaff said. “We’re hoping to get the details fleshed out soon.”

The new league would have to renew its charter with the regional headquarters in Bristol, Conn., after it officially dissolves after a third meeting Nov. 1. DEFY Youth Sports Director Shane Lowell said that process will be relatively painless because of Ellsworth’s history with Little League International.

“The people at the headquarters in Bristol know Ellsworth well, and we have a good reputation with them,” Lowell said. “They’re mostly just waiting for the paperwork to come together, and once we dissolve the current charter, we’ll send that to them right away and get a new one.”

Lowell said the decision to cut Little League over other programs was made because it lost more money relative to others that could have been put on the chopping block. As youth sports director, Lowell has been in charge of the league since it was formed 17 years ago.

The league as currently constructed differs from the vast majority of Little League International programs because it uses Lowell as a paid league leader. That would change under new management, which would use a volunteer system that more closely resembles the majority of other programs in the district and worldwide.

“This city loves its Little League and wants to keep it, and we’re going to take the next step to make sure that happens,” Wagstaff said. “We have people everywhere who want us to succeed, kids who want to play and parents who are willing to put in the time and effort to help make this all happen for us.”

DEFY said it will continue to sponsor baseball and softball through a recreational and developmental program that is scheduled to begin play following the conclusion of Little League season in August. It will work with the Bucksport and MDI YMCAs to do so.

The DEFY league has been one of the most successful in Downeast Maine in recent years. Along with Acadian Little League in Bar Harbor, DEFY’s baseball and softball teams have regularly won district championships and made deep runs in state tournaments at both the 9-10 and 11-12 age levels.

The league’s 11-12 baseball team has been particularly dominant over the past 10 years. The team has won a total of six titles during that span, including four championships in a row from 2008-11 and back-to-back title wins over the past two seasons.

“This has been a successful league and a winning program for quite a while now, and we want to keep up the tradition we’ve had for the past decade and more,” Wagstaff said.

Although Wagstaff and Lowell will not be volunteers with the new league when play begins next season, both are helping to oversee the transition process to the new league. That transition will be complete soon after the regional headquarters in Bristol receives the aforementioned paperwork from the new league’s board of directors.

“I’m very confident that things will go smoothly for all of us,” Wagstaff said. “It’s obviously a big change for our league, but it’s one that we’re going to make work for the future of baseball in Ellsworth.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]