About 800 children in New Britain play Little League baseball, but not all of them get to play together. New Britain is one of the rare City’s were two different leagues play under different rules.
According to Matthew Cannata, president of New Britain Little League since 2007, his group formed in 1958 as the Bronson Heights Little League under the Little League Association. Two other Independents leagues Fagan and Walicki also formed. In 1972 Walicki merged with New Britain Little League, but Fagan is still independent.
“We (New Britain Little League and Fagan baseball) became like the American League and the National League,” said Cannata
New Britain Little League has about 650 players while Fagan has about 120 according to Cannata.
“We’ve approached them on the subject of combining,” said Cannata. “But, they never wanted to merge with us. There really is only a need for one Little League.”
Phil Pepin, president of Fagan Little League said the two talked, but could not reach an agreement that he felt was equitable.
“Matt wants to take over all the youth fields,” said Pepin. “I’m a thorn in his side.”
Pepin said there are several reasons New Britain Little League has more players. One is built around a cycle.
“I have seen the cycle before,” said Pepin. “We grow and they are small and then they grow and we are small.”
The second reason, according to Pepin is that there is an unwritten rule that youths west of Allen Street play for New Britain Little League and those east play for Fagan Little League. Pepin said Cannata has gone beyond those boundaries recruiting players from all over the City.
The two groups also seem to battle over playing fields. Fagan has three all at Martha Hart Park. New Britain has eight in AW Stanley, Stanley Quarter and Jefferson School.
The fields at Martha Hart Park have lights and were recently fixed.
“The parks and recreation crews take care of all the fields the same. We do a little extra clean-up of ours,” said Pepin. “We have better fields, but it took us years to get what we wanted.”
“They have all three fields with lights. The City won’t let us access them,” said Cannata. “We need more than eight fields.”
According to Cannata, New Britain has 50 teams with 13 kids on each while Fagan has 16-18 teams with 9 on each.
There are also a few rule changes that are different between the two leagues as well. New Britain goes by Little League rules and Fagan by Cal Ripken rules.
Some rule differences include how many inning youths must play, how many innings or pitches kids are allowed, how many times each child is at the plate and how many defensive outs must occur.
“My goal is to work together,” said Cannata. “But, they feel we are invading their territory.”
Pepin said Cannata has gone out and told people the two have merged and they have not.
“He really wants the whole city,” said Pepin. “As long as I’m around that’s not going to happen.”