Already facing a very brief regular season, the American Legion Zone 1 baseball ranks now have a shorter roster of teams with the recent decision by the Presque Isle Patriots not to field a team this summer.
The team, which was available for players from throughout Aroostook County, was folded due to a lack of interest among potential players, according to team manager Richard Parsons, who formed the team six years ago.
“It’s kind of sad,” he said. “The last two years it’s been pretty tough. We had 12 kids last year, and seven eligible to come back, but when I started asking around, there weren’t many who wanted to play.”
Parsons cited competition to baseball from soccer, summer basketball, hockey camps and even slow-pitch softball leagues in the area, as well as players needing to work during the summer months.
Players from Presque Isle’s former coverage area who still wish to play American Legion baseball this summer may try out with the Lincoln Lumber, according to Zone 1 commissioner David Paul.
Zone 1, which fielded 11 teams last year, will have just nine teams for its 16-game regular-season schedule that runs from June 15 to July 11.
In addition to Presque Isle’s departure, the Motor City team comprised primarily of players from John Bapst of Bangor and Bangor Christian merged during the offseason with the Orono Twins, which gets most of its roster from Orono and Old Town high schools.
The 2010 schedule had been developed with the new Motor City team included but before the Presque Isle team decided to drop out. Zone 1 commissioner David Paul said the schedule will remain as it is with the Presque Isle dates serving as byes for the opposing teams.
The compact 26-day regular-season schedule, followed by zone, state and Northeast regional tournaments, is dictated at the start by the conclusion of the high school state championships on June 19 and at the end by the national Legion tournament to be held Aug. 5-9 at Spokane, Wash.
“We’d like to play more than 16 games, and we probably will play more in years to come,” said Paul, “but the way the schedule fell this year we might be lucky we’re just playing 16.”
Legion teams must play a minimum of 18 games to qualify for the state tournament, and the two Zone 1 qualifiers for the state tourney will achieve that minimum during the Zone 1 tournament.
That six-team event begins with play-in games featuring the No. 3 seed against the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed against the No. 5 seed on July 15. The winners will advance to the four-team, double-elimination zone tournament July 16-18.
Only the Zone 1 champion will earn an automatic berth to the 10-team state AL tournament, set to begin July 28, at the Wainwright Complex in South Portland. The Zone 1 runner-up will play the Zone 5 (York County) runner-up in a state tournament play-in game at 2:30 p.m., July 24, also at South Portland, with the Zone 3 (Western Maine) and Zone 4 (Cumberland County) runners-up to square off in the other state play-in game.
The Zone 2 (Central Maine) runner-up earns an automatic bid to the state tourney under a rotating schedule that began last year with Zone 1 runner-up Hampden advancing directly to the states.