Growing rift leads Babe Ruth organizers to consider avoiding west
By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
Glendive’s local youth baseball organization may pursue its own course following a growing rift with leadership from the western side of the state.
At a meeting Tuesday night of the Glendive Babe Ruth Baseball board, a decision was made to pursue staying with the Babe Ruth organization, but eschewing participation in the state level postseason tournaments in favor of extending the local league season deeper into the summer.
“There’s nothing in the rule book that says we have to field a tournament team and follow the tournament trail,” said Glendive Babe Ruth president Dake Pulse.
No official decision has been made yet, as the Babe Ruth board wants to work in concert with the lower-level Cal Ripken League board, only of member of which was at the meeting.
Pulse and his board members also need to engage with the other community Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken leagues around Eastern Montana to gauge their interest in pursuing such a course.
The push to break to some extent with the statewide Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken organization comes following what Pulse and other area league officials say is an ongoing pattern of dismissal from the top of concerns from Eastern Montana leagues, refusal to grant postseason tournaments to Eastern Montana towns, supplanting qualified Eastern Montana all-star teams in tournaments with lower ranked teams from Western Montana, and a general unprofessional, condescending attitude towards the Eastern Montana leagues from the state organization’s president.
“If they didn’t want to listen to anything we said, maybe they’ll listen to the back door,” said Pulse of the state-level league bureaucracy.
Miles City Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken league president Blayne Watts, who attended the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting in Glendive, likewise vented his frustration at the state league offices.
“It seems like every time we try to have a voice, it seems like that’s something that’s just been pushed aside,” Watts said.
Both Watts and Pulse said requests to meet with the state organization president Bruce McEvoy have been ignored, repeated calls and e-mails to the district chairman representing Eastern Montana have gone unanswered and that calls to the national Babe Ruth organization had likewise been rebuffed.
“It’s kind of like we’ve been blacklisted, I feel like,” Pulse said. “This has been kind of a long-brewing thing, and I think they’ve decided to just be butts to us and make us decide to do our own thing. Babe Ruth Baseball should be ashamed.”
Watts said that Miles City, Glendive and the other youth baseball leagues in Eastern Montana need to work together towards a common solution.
“At some point, if we combine and get on the same sheet of music, whether we decide we’re going to do something else or we’re going to fight this battle together, we’ve got to get unified,” he said. “Our objective is to get on the same sheet of music for the kids.”
Watts presented the Glendive Babe Ruth board with information on an option he said the Miles City baseball organization is strongly considering, with an eye towards making a decision by the end of the year — dropping Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth and joining Little League Baseball.
Though Watts said he was cautious about thinking the “grass might be greener” in Little League, he outlined potential positives of joining the organization.
He said Little League is cheaper, up to “two-thirds” less expensive than playing in Babe Ruth.
Little League also has rules limiting individual league sizes to a population of 30,000, meaning Eastern Montana teams could possibly be more competitive against teams from bigger cities because those cities are broken up into multiple leagues, which is not the case with Babe Ruth.
The other potential positive, according to Watts, is that the nearest Little League district covers the Billings area, including Laurel, Red Lodge and Hardin, meaning Eastern Montana teams wouldn’t have to travel to the far western fringes of the state for postseason tournaments.
However, Watts also said there were “things that scare me,” about joining the Billings Little League district, namely that leagues from Eastern Montana might be subject to the same kind of lack of attention from that district’s officials they have received under Babe Ruth.
Watts said he had talked to a Little League official from the organization’s headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., and that they were “very, very receptive” to Eastern Montana leagues joining.
He also said the national Little League office told him they would prefer to create a third district in Montana –––— the other is in Missoula — rather than have Eastern Montana leagues join the Billings district, but Watts said that would take “four to five” leagues to make that work, though he voiced support for pursuing that course.
“I think if it came down to you guys can set up enough numbers to put together a (Little League) District 3, I’d say set it up, let’s make it happen,” Watts said.
However, after Watts left, Pulse said the Glendive Babe Ruth board decided not to entertain the idea of joining Little League now, and would instead work to set up their own season format while remaining under the Babe Ruth charter.
“Our group just got cold feet about jumping from one program to the next just because a sales pitch came in,” Pulse said of the board’s decision not to further consider moving to Little League.
As noted, however, no final decisions have been made, pending discussions with the Glendive Cal Ripken board and the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken leagues from other Eastern Montana communities.
Reach Jason Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org.