Connecticut American Legion zone directors came together over the weekend to officially form the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association, LLC.
Following Governor Ned Lamont’s announcement youth baseball would be allowed to start playing on June 20th, provided the infection and hospitalization rates remain at current levels, the newly formed league and its 12 board members sprang into action to formulate a plan for the summer.
“We pretty much put the league in place through the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association,” League Director Craig Zimmerman said. “We found insurance comparable to Legion’s and right now we are working on some of the required forms. Each of the 12 people on the committee have various jobs to do. We were lucky that the six Zone chairmen are all on board and are reaching out to their teams.”
The national and state levels of American Legion announced they were unable to provide insurance or sponsorship for this season on May 11. All American Legion Regional and World Series tournaments were canceled. Teams and leagues are not permitted to play under the direction or name of American Legion for this summer.
The majority of progress was made on Saturday, when all 12 board members worked out the details of how to proceed with the summer season.
“It was like a 2 1/2-hour meeting and it was really good,” North Haven 76 General Manager and Connecticut Elite Baseball Association board member Charlie Flanagan said. “They formed an LLC and we are basically finalizing the placement of the insurance, league schedules with a tentative 15-20 game season with all zones throughout the state, and an eight-team single elimination tournament.”
The Connecticut Elite Baseball Association will feature four age groups in 19U, 17U, 15U as well as an expanded 13U division. The rules will mirror those of an American Legion season, with the goal being to have teams return under the American Legion umbrella in the 2021 season. The zones will mirror that of the standard Legion zones: Zone 1 (Cheshire/Farmington Valley), Zone 2 (Greater New Haven), Zone 3 (Middletown, RCP), Zone 4 (Fairfield County), Zone 5 (Naugatuck Valley and Greater Danbury) and Zone 6 (Eastern Connecticut).
“I think it has pretty remarkably fallen into place in a couple of weeks,” Zimmerman said. “I think everybody is clearly on the same page as long as we can do this safely. We all just want to be part of the solution and help get the kids back out there. If we had a gap it would have been difficult to get 100 percent of the teams back to Legion for 2021, there would be teams that would decide not to come back. Connecticut has a really strong American Legion program, but we need all of our programs that we have with over 100 teams, so the fact that we were able to offer them something just for this year — and that’s all that this is — is a good thing.”
The board of directors consists of six Division Chairmen, with each Division representing what were Legion Zones, as well as Umpire Representative Bill Tatelman, and three general members, including Flanagan.
“It is basically the same structure that National Legion has,” Flanagan said. “You have to credit each of these Zone Chairmen. It was tremendous. They were very proactive and positive. It was a long meeting but it was good. We got a lot accomplished and everybody is in.”
With the league formed, there is still work to be done, including paperwork and figuring out just how many teams will commit with just four weeks before teams will begin to practice. There will be a June 6 registration deadline. Directors will be reaching out to team managers with registration information.
“I can speak for Zone 2, we have 100 percent participation,” Flanagan said. “I believe that the same reaction is going to happen in other zones. We are looking at three to four games a week, and I still want to leave those weekends open for us anyways so we can do some sort of showcase activities, especially for the sophomores and juniors.”
Scheduling will be done by each Division individually, similarly to how each Zone created its schedule for the Legion season.
“We are going to leave the number of games up to the Zones,” Zimmerman said. “In Legion it has always been the Zone’s decision with the state’s approval. I think my Zone (Zone 3) is probably going to play 15-20 games which would be comparable to the past. You could make an argument that we should play a lot to make up for the lost high school season, and you could make an argument to be careful, so we are kind of threading the needle there.”
A potential in-state postseason has been discussed, but there will be no regional or World Series rounds for the winner.
“A postseason is one of the things that is going to depend on the Governor’s recommendation,” Zimmerman said. “We only have a five-week period because if we start on July 1st, we really want to end no later than August 9th just to give people a few weeks before athletes start going back to college, high school starts and fall sports begin. So it will be a five-week season. We set aside three days at the end to potentially run an eight-team single elimination tournament.”
The CT Elite Baseball Association is highly motivated to get Legion players back on the field soon, and will continue to have meeting regarding precautions that must be made for player safety.
“Our next call is Wednesday to discuss (rules regarding the pandemic),” Zimmerman said. “We are trying to get as much information as possible and my understanding is that the Governor is going to come out with specific rules for each particular sport, but we will still be discussing it and may go beyond those rules.”