By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Keizer Youth Sports Association (KYSA) and Keizer Little League (KLL) are still two entities.
However, signs point to a renewed effort to merge the two youth sports groups.
One such sign: the two groups won’t both be offering softball programs in 2015; only KLL will be doing so.
“We did vote as a board last week and voted to give softball to Keizer Little League, effective for 2015,” new KYSA president Andrew Copeland said on Monday. “When we go to register, we will include that information. I think it will work for both organizations. It’s better for the community to have a larger rec league. All parts of softball will go to KLL. KYSA will not be running a softball program at all.”
Jamie Vasas, a KLL board member who also serves as the KLL webmaster in addition to helping with other issues, confirmed that is the case.
“It sounds like that is what is happening,” Vasas said on Monday. “That’s what KYSA voted on. It sounds like KLL is doing all the softball. Everyone who signs up for softball for rec will have to do it under KLL. We always offered softball. Last year KYSA offered softball and so did we. They are not offering it this year. It was nothing we told them to do.”
Vasas is estimating at least 200 girls will be signed up for softball this coming season.
“For softball it’s a good thing,” he said of one organization offering the program. “That’s one thing I would like, is one program. This way you’re not getting kids playing either KLL or KYSA. Now they’re all playing softball (with KLL). There are so many tournament teams now, it’s harder when they’re over 10 to continue with rec softball. Now they can continue to play until they’re 14 or 16. We should have quite a few softball players this year.”
Copeland noted Albert Castaneda ran the softball portion of KYSA in 2014 and is willing to help with the transition.
“Softball numbers are not as strong as baseball,” Copeland said. “There needs to be one Keizer rec league. That’s almost an immediate thing that needs to happen. It would be like a test run. It’s making us work closer together.”
Copeland said board members from KYSA and KLL met together in October and found common ground.
“There’s a difference of opinion when it comes to baseball styles,” Copeland said. “We both have a rec league, we have 10U and 12U for baseball. There are slightly different rules to each one. That’s not an obstacle in itself. We both agree there needs to be one rec league for all the kids in Keizer. It’s just working out the details.”
Copeland and Vasas both noted the far higher turnout for youth baseball in Keizer, which Copeland said prevented a merger between the programs for now.
“We’re looking at the schedule and we couldn’t iron out all the details,” Copeland said. “If you transfer all the kids from KYSA to KLL, you would manually have to enter 800 names. It’s not going to work based on time.”
Vasas noted members of the KLL board have supported the idea of a merger between the organizations.
“We’re open to it,” he said. “It sounds like it didn’t work this year, whether because of time or still some issues. Little League has always been open to it and remains open to it. If something happens next year and it’s close, we will (merge). I get along really well with Andrew Copeland, he’s a good friend of mine. We’ve coached together.”
It sounds like the two are committed to working together as well.
“My goal in the next year is we know we need to merge the two rec leagues,” Copeland said. “Whether it be called KYSA, KLL or something else, that’s something we need to decide. We have had numerous discussions. We couldn’t get there this year. There was timing, strong opinions, questions of how it’s going to look. I would like to see us work toward that for next year. We’ll get some people from both sides together. We’re not going to merge the two rec baseball league this year, but I hope we can be under one umbrella next year.”
In the past, KYSA had the management contract for Keizer Little League Fields. KLL was awarded the contract for 2014, with a two-year contract that expires after the 2015 season. City Manager Chris Eppley made his desire known for the future of that contract at a recent Keizer City Council work session.
“Ideally you would have a third-party group not associated with baseball run that park,” Eppley said earlier this month. “It would be an independent third party, whose sole interest is the facility alone and when it’s used. There has been talk of KLL and KYSA having a third party, maybe having people like Clint Holland, people who don’t have a dog in the fight.”
Vasas and Copeland agree with Eppley’s stance.
“If the two (organizations) can never fully merge, that is the best option,” Vasas said of having a neutral third party. “If they can merge, we won’t need that because everyone would be working under one program. If we can’t merge, that is a good idea. Even if you merge, you still need a middle group to do scheduling, be in charge of budget, schedule who goes into concessions, etc. You would still need that third group.
“I hope we can merge,” he added. “Our board has always been open to it. We had a board meeting this year with KYSA. I don’t think we’ve done that before. That’s huge progress. Andrew and I both know it’s about the kids. We want to get to that point (of merging). I think it can still happen. Our board is still open to it. Maybe we can start the process earlier next year.”
Copeland sees a third party for the field as a good idea.
“For 2016, we need to make sure the contract goes to a neutral party for the fields,” he said. “Either we have a third party or some people, say Jamie and I, would both be on the middle group with representatives from both (organizations) in that middle group, just running the fields. I look forward to working together with KLL to make the fields look good again. I think we’ll get there.
“There was a split several years ago to go separate,” added Copeland, who was not part of either group when KLL was split in 2008. “I don’t know the history, but it doesn’t matter to me. I got into it because I want to help out the kids. Hopefully by next year we can get there.”
When KLL took over the field contract for this year, some KYSA leaders responded by removing items such as mowing equipment, ice machines and more from the premises. While a new mower was purchased, the shape of the fields was called into question by many during a Parks Tour in September. There was also the poison oak outbreak in the spring, which once again flared up KYSA vs. KLL sentiments.
Vasas, who was among those working on the fields throughout the season, said things will be better this year.
“The things they moved out were eventually replaced,” Vasas said. “The big thing now for this year is last year we went into it without instructions, like having a big model without instructions. We didn’t know where the sprinklers or sprinkler heads were. We were going into it blind. This year we know from last year what it takes, where things are, how much the budget is, things like that. That is a big thing.”
Copeland believes it makes sense for equipment that was removed to be brought back.
“The chalk, liners or whatever, we can bring some of the stuff back,” Copeland said. “If we have equipment they need, it would be reasonable for us to bring it back. The main thing we need to do is to work together so the fields are maintained and are a good for kids to play on. KLL, to their credit, they have a plan in place to clean the fields up. We’re going to do our best to help them. Ultimately what it comes down to is the kids of Keizer, kids who come in and play. We want the fields clean, We just need to make sure fields are maintained. I think we’ll get there. There are some things now that need to be fixed. I think we can get there. It kind of stinks that folds back on KLL.”