Rest in peace, baseball, 1845 (ish)-2012. That seems to be the case in central Essex County, as more schools are finding it impossible to field the nine players needed for a varsity baseball team, let alone modified, where some schools do not have enough to field the lifeline to a varsity program.
Locally, Keene has been joined by Willsboro as schools that will not compete in the Mountain and Valley Athletic Conference baseball season. Several others are barely fielding a team.
Before I go on, let me take a minute on the Keene situation. Why is there no Beagle-ball this year? For the past two seasons, Keene has combined with Westport to compete as the Beagles (Beavers and Eagles) with great success, both on the field and between the two schools. However, it is not happening this year and, to be honest, I wish they were still together, even if Westport does have enough to field their own team (coming from someone who would have seen their playing time cut with a merger).
Now, back to the baseball eulogy.
There are many reasons behind the demise of the sport here, starting with one which I am surprised didn't kill it already — the short season.
While this year is as freakish as they come, teams usually hit the playing field within days of their first game. Last year, the Elizabethtown-Lewis softball team took to the field one day before their league opener.
It was always frustrating as a player or a coach to see 3 inches of snow on the ground, even if it would melt by the end of the day, because it meant that the fields would be muddy that much longer. That alone can drive some people away from the game.
A second, I will admit, is the addition of new sports such as track and tennis. However, I am not in favor of getting rid of these sports for the same reasons I am in favor of Beagle-ball — it helps more kids get the chance to be a part of a team and compete.
Keith Lobdell is the editor of the Valley News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.