New Britain City Journal

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Many Questions Surround Two City Little Leagues

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.”

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15 COMMENTS

  1. yes..first we want to take over the whole city than the whole state..its out matter plan…i guess now the secret is out!!!

  2. I just wanted to clear up two things:

    “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.”

    These boundaries were in effect in the 1950’s – 1970’s. Once Fagan became independent and New Britain Little League became part of Little League Incorporated, all boundary rules were thrown out the window.

    “Pepin said Cannata has gone out and told people the two have merged and they have not.”

    I have not told anyone we have merged. A lot of people thought we had because we recently changed our name to New Britain Little League. It was a public perception – nothing on our part.

    • Are you kidding me?Highly regarded coach ya right.Regardless we are all here for the same reason and that is to teach the youth of New Britain the game of baseball..The numbers game does not matter. I have been coaching in the Fagan League for 17 years and we havve always had between 300 to 400 kids.it does vary from year to year.The league has been around since 1950 with hundreds of coaches and volunteers building the league to be the best that it could be and building their concessionstand from the ground up.We enjoy not being told what to do by little league and all the crazy rules they have.The Fagan League has amendments to the Cal Ripken rules that help are kids develop and learn the fundamentals of the game .We are not worried about a powerhouse or going to williamsport but only to make a better child and ballplayer so they can take their experience through the game of life.Yes it is true 6 out of the 9 starters for our high school team and not even including the numerous bench players came from the Fagan farm system.So we must be doing something right.At the same time I can see the point NBLL is making but know this there are more cities and towns in Conn.that have 2 baseball leagues than there are that have 1.The Fagan League is here to stay and enjoy the rest of your season.

  3. new britain little league has been around for many many years formerly waliki league. the league is run by dedicated people. New Britain is one city it should be ONE LEAGUE NOT 2 LEAGUES. if you merge you will become bigger and stronger.

  4. I have been in NBLL (formerly Walicki) for almost 10 years. I was VP of the league when we talked with a contingent from Fagan about merging. The only thing keeping New Britian from combining is the simple fact that the leaders of Fagan feel they would be pushed aside. We have worked with Fagan well in the past. We had a city series, we played in their tournament, and we wrote a letter of support when the town wrote a grant to improve one of Fagan’s fields. All people involved care about NB baseball.

    Staying seperate is not ideal for the kids of the town. Many want to play against all their friends… not just a handful of them. Tourney teams would be stronger if the talent pool contained all the kids. Staying seperate also makes it harder for Parks and Rec to manage and improve all the fields… they cannot ask one league to set aside usage on a field to improve it becuase history has “locked” leagues into specific usage patterns. Field
    usage and maintenance is the #1 problem for ALL divisions of NB public baseball (from the kids to the adults)…. a good place to start is combining the little leagues so that the majority of the town’s fields can be periodically taken off-line and improved.

    IMO, all of this could be championed by some town leadership within Parks and Rec. All of NB baseball should come under the umbrella of NB Parks and Rec… after all they dole out the field use permits for all leagues. They could sit down with Matt and Phil and come up with a package that combines both leagues where logical and fair concessions are given on both sides. First off, combine the leagues; yet charter the 9-12 Majors division as Little league (so they can battle for a trip to Williamsport) and charter the 4-11 (T-Ball through Developmental to Minors) as well as the Juniors as Cal Ripken. (Softball could be chartered as Little League since there are more local softball teams in Little League as could our Challenger division for kids with disabilities.) Finally, Parks and Rec can mandate that the Board of Directors of the new Board will not undergo any changes for three years or else lose their permits… therefore, no one will be given the cold shoulder and/or forced out. Leave Matt as Preisdent (since NBLL is bigger) and fix Phil as VP. This allows for the trust to build. Give a percentage of majors teams to Fagan coaches so they don’t lose out. It is obvious that Phil comes off as threateneing in the article… but he is merely protecting turf it took years of hard work to get. The combination will not happen unless a third party mediates the merger…. ideally that party is Parks and Rec.

    After that, then the Parks and Rec can focus of field mantenaince and management for the young kids as well as for the adults.If you think two leagues is plenty for the kids…. just wrap your hands around the teen/adult leagues and their field requirements.

  5. Let’s look at the real facts……Fagan has more than 250 players this year in their league, more than double of what Mr. Cannatta stated in the article. With those numbers we have only 3 fields (83:3). However, you have 650 players using 8 fields (81:8). That is more than enough field space for your league. As far as there needing to be only one league for one city, that is ridiculous. Many towns, with smaller populations, have multiple leagues. Southington has 3, Meriden has 2 and Bristol has 4. Those 3 towns alone only have populations of 42,000-60,000 people. The majority of those leagues are based on where you live. Southington has a southern, northern and western league. You stay on your side of town and you play for your league! Park and Recs can still manage the fields without having to merge the leagues. Maybe Mr. Cannata wants to control the city, but he will never control where my boys play!!!

  6. While this is an interesting article, I think it’s time to put this “merging” issue to rest. Although there have been talks and discussions over the years, it is not going to happen. So many other towns and cities have multiple leagues, why should NB have only one?
    There are some inaccuracies that need to be addressed. The Fagan League has been in existence just as long as the other league. We have been sustainable for just as long as the other league. The Fagan League has over 250 kids registered this season, thats alot more than Mr. Cannata estimated.
    Our kids enjoy playing on a team with a smaller roster; they get more direction, attention, and practice, no matter what their skill level is, from their coaches. In fact, I have been told that 6 of the 9 NBHS baseball players are from the Fagan League.
    Yes, we have fields with lights on them and yes, we absolutely love the fact that our kids can play under the lights! But it took alot of hard work and cooperation to get our fields to where they are today. it didn’t happen overnight.
    IMHO, the residents of the city will continue to support both leagues and we will continue to coach, instruct, and cheer the baseball youth of the city.

  7. I like the fact that we, as parents, have a choice as to what league to play for. We don’t have that with other sports in this town. I picked Fagan because the the league is run really well, they have excellent communication with the parents, great coaches that actually help all the kids learn to play and improve their abilities, the fields were better kept, they had a better concession stand, they have real bathrooms and I do not have to run all over town taking my son to his next game. The fields are well maintained thanks to Phil and his team. They go above and beyond with those fields. I should have a choice as to where my son plays baseball. There is no reason why this town cannot have 2 leagues. Southington has 3. If New Britain Little League feels that they have too many kids registered maybe they should have a cap on registration. Fagan has more that 200 kids registered and playing in their league not sure where anyone got the 120 figure.

  8. to faganmom NBLL may have more fields but NBLL only has one field with lights. which is not fair because it limits the number of teams who can play under the lights. i think a merge would be good because it would allow both leagues to have equal opportunity to play under lights. and to the person who says they have better concession stand that’s your opinion . NBLL got there concession stand from the bottom up they started out of the back trunk of a van many many years ago in the early 90s and then moved to the press box. after many dedicated mothers who were on the concession committee they were able to raise funds and move it to the main building at aw that is in front of the lake they had to gut the whole place out and it has come a long way since then and food is good simple ballpark fare.

    • I should had been more specific. My daughter played for Fagan in the mid 90’s. That’s when I chose Fagan. My son plays for them now. The reason I said they had a better concession because when you work ours, you can watch your kids play. I spent many hours in that stand back then and watched all my daughter’s games. I meant no disrespect to anyone by my comment.

      As for the lighted fields. You had them way before we did. Fagan waited YEARS for them. It wasn’t fair then either that one league had lights and the other didn’t. Fagan survived and fought for what they have now. I don’t recall a discussion on merger back then.

  9. I am not here to argue, fight, bicker, or banter. I am here to state the facts.

    The 120 number was given to me on your Opening Day by numerous coaches throughout the league. To begin, I know that the league has six Majors teams with nine players on each team. I was given counts of other teams throughout the other divisions of play by a highly regarded coach in your league.

    However, with that being said, it is quite possible that the number grew to 250. We at New Britain Little League get many new registrants after Opening Day, sometimes adding 50 – 75 children within the first two weeks of officially opening our season. I would not be surprised if that happened in Fagan as well.

    I am not sure if Mrs. vinci, the journalist, confirmed with Mr. Pepin this number.

    Regarding the ratios, it cannot be simply stated in those terms. Let me explain.

    For our TBALL, Minors, and Majors Divisions, we have 465 players registered. For those divisions, we have four fields. Broken down, that gives us a ratio of 116:4.

    For our Seniors Division, we have 80 players registered and two fields. Broken down, that gives us a ratio of 40:2. This does not include the field usage by New Britain High School, EC Goodwin, JC Courant, Mangan, Twilight, Legion, and other adult leagues.

    For our Softball Division, we have 115 girls registered with one field. That is a ratio of 115:1. We are allowed on occasion to use Martha Hart once per week, but that usually does not help us very much with our softball program.

    With those ratios, as you can see, it makes things quite difficult. In essence, we have seven fields to work with spread out over all of the divisions.

    We are not concerned with how big we are getting and we will never put a cap on the number of registrations we take. To do so would be turning away children who want the opportunity to play organized sports. Our TBALL and Minors A division still gets a twelve game schedule. Our Minors AA and AAA division plays between 13 and 16 games. Our Majors division plays 16 – 20 games and our Seniors Division plays 13 – 16 games. Our Softball Division plays 12 – 15 games. We have the fields but with that many teams, we are playing every day in every time slot possible. This puts wear and tear on the field and doesn’t allow the fields to heal itself during the season.

    The Parks and Recreation Department has stated to me on numerous occasions the need to take fields offline to revamp them. However, it is impossible to do so with the restrictions placed on both leagues regarding where they play. If the leagues were to merge, Parks and Rec would be able to take at least one or two fields offline per year and revamp them and allow for an even greater experience for these children.

    The reason why the other towns have numerous leagues is because of the boundaries Little League Incorporated placed on them. They did not choose to have numerous leagues – Little League did for them. With that being said, Little League froze the boundaries for all leagues in the world two years ago. Therefore, if we ever were to merge, the entire city of New Britain would be allowed to operate under one league with one charter.

    It is a mistake when it is said that I want to control the entire city. I do not. This is not about me and I am not some person who is on a power trip wanting everything to myself. If you ask anyone around NBLL, they will tell you the same thing. I do not have any children. I do this because I grew up in New Britain Little League and I want to give back to the community. I am passionate about it and it is a great way to keep kids off the streets and doing something positive. Baseball and Softball are great sports that teaches both children and adults valuable life lessons.

    Moving forward, in the years ahead, Whether or not the two leagues stay seperate or merge remains to be seen. Either way, it is my hope that no matter who is running either league, the children get a great experience and learn the game of Baseball and Softball and valuable life lessons.

  10. Alright, for starters. What does better concession stands have to do with what league to choose? I didn’t know a concession stand was such an important part of choosing a baseball league. Second, new britain little league offers a lot more and kids are involved more because there are many in the league. They are able to play more teams and have better ways of learning through other team mates and learning from different coaches. Also does it matter how many other leagues another town has? Maybe they also have a stable amount of kids in their leagues that they are able to have separate leagues..but as for new britain, Fagan does not have many players as new britian little league so why not merge? POINT IS NBLL wins this conversation.

  11. Also, stanley quarter park and AW (the main fields) are 2 minutes away from eachother-that’s not really running around if they are so close.

  12. Somehow the focus seems to have shifted to now argue which league is better. That should be irrelevant and I’m not quite sure how one could measure in what way(s) one league is better than the other anyway.

    The focus should be as stated above, the desire to give back to the community and to our area children. I can’t at this time, see any cons to merging. It’s not about city domination or claiming possession. It’s about the kids and giving them the best opportunities possible. Working as a team would only bring more unity and more opportunity for our children.

  13. There is absolutely no need why we should merge the leagues. Everyone has their preferences as to what league to play on. No one should be forced to do anything. I like Fagan and I always have. The kids will still have the best opportunities no matter which league they sign up for.

    To Replier: I know many people on both leagues and I don’t see how you can say one league is better than the other. I haven’t found one parent on your league that even thought that.

    If you can’t handle the number of kids that register for your league than you should have a cut-off number. It’s not like they won’t be able to play anywhere else.

    I see absolutely no pros in merging.

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