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 Friday, December 27, 2013




Tri-Co to be absorbed as a separate division in the Lehigh Valley Men's Senior Baseball League

The amateur baseball league will have its own division in the Men's Senior League.

Of The Morning Call

Rumors of the demise of the local amateur baseball circuit known as the Tri-County League have been exaggerated. At least to a degree.


The Tri-Co, down to five teams after the departure of the Limeport Bulls and Northern Yankees to the Blue Mountain League and having others on shaky financial footing, will be absorbed as a new division of the Lehigh Valley Men's Senior Baseball League beginning next summer.

According to Steve Smull, who has served as an officer in both the Tri-Co and LVMSBL, an agreement in principle was reached last week.

Smull said that having a Tri-Co Division in the LVMSBL offers "the potential to rebuild the league and get it as strong as it was a few years ago. It is an exciting prospect for Tri-Co considering the downward turn that both the Tri-Co and the BML have been experiencing the past five to 10 years."

Last month, the BML announced the addition of the Bulls and Yankees, along with the Roseto Bandits, a former LVMSBL team. Those three will give the BML 11 teams next season. The Vynecrest Reds have reportedly ceased operations.

At the moment, there are three teams confirmed for the LVMSBL's Tri-Co division — the Cetronia Longhorns, the Gabelsville Owls and Boyertown Metz — with the possibility of more being added before the season starts in the spring.

The Tri-Co members would play each other during the week with cross-division against teams from the LVMSBL's elite division — called the Black & Blue Division — on Sundays.

The plan is for each Tri-Co team to play 22 to 28 games depending on the number of teams who join.

Smull said the league would maintain its history and "way of life" while operating under the LVMSBL umbrella.

"The concept of our league is to provide a place for people to play for baseball," LVMSBL president Ron Cahill said. "We've been known primarily as a weekend league and as an older league for a long time. But it's actually becoming a younger league because we've had a lot of growth in our younger divisions."

This past spring and summer, the LVMSBL featured nearly 1,000 players spread over 47 teams divided into four age groups and the Black and Blue divisions.

Cahill has been instrumental in the LVMSBL's growth. He took over in 2005 after the league ended 2004 with just 17 teams. The league has been built through strong sponsorship, an integral component in amateur baseball.

"We see adding the Tri-County Division as a natural progression," Cahill said. "This gives our managers who want to play more an opportunity to play additional games against good competition. The Black & Blue Division, which has 11 teams, must meet certain requirements. They must field competitive teams. That division is not about age, it's about quality."

Smull admitted that this is a transition year for the Tri-Co, but said it is not the first time the league has gone through a major facelift.

The league originally began in 1958, but ceased operations for the 1969 season before returning a year later primarily as a weekend-only league. It wasn't until Allentown's Class A hardball league folded after the 1977 season that the Tri-Co gained teams and begin to resemble the league it has looked like for much of the past 35 years.

"I came from the Class A League to the Tri-County in 1978 and it was a different league back them with teams from the South like Silver Creek, Quakertown, Upper Perk and Perkasie, who no longer exist," said Ray Ganser, a longtime Tri-Co official, player, coach and manager. "It's getting tougher and tougher to get enough guys to make a 30-to-40-game commitment."

Ganser, who is a coach with the Limeport Bulls, said "you could see the writing on the wall" with the Tri-County League having a few teams "struggle with their financial responsibility."

Yet, as someone who has been synonymous with the Tri-Co for 35 years, Ganser, who will be one of the directors of LVMSBL's Tri-Co Division, didn't want to see it end.

"At the end of last year, we were trying to figure out what's the best way to keep the Tri-County League going," Ganser said. "Times have changed, but you have to adjust with the times. Hopefully, there's an opportunity for growth here. Look at how the senior league has grown. There's still a lot of guys out there who want to play amateur baseball and they're going to get that chance with this arrangement."



From The Morning Call -- December 27, 2013

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