Bailey Bellefleur delivers a pitch for Wisdom High School during a varsity softball game at Fort Fairfield on May 8, 2018. The St. Agatha school did not have enough players to field a team in 2019. Madawaska High School, however, has agreed to let Wisdom players join that team so they can play. Credit: Kevin Sjoberg

Two St. John Valley softball teams are joining forces to create one stronger, cooperative team with the merging of Wisdom and Madawaska players after both school committees voted to approve the move earlier this week.

Two weeks into practice this season, Wisdom High School Principal Ralph Fantasia said the school in St. Agatha could not get more than eight girls to commit to the team, even if officials enlisted eighth graders.

“I had been trying to recruit as many players to keep the team here, but things were not going our way,” Fantasia said.

That’s when Fantasia heard that Hodgdon High School was taking in players from East Grand of Danforth to form a team. Fantasia confirmed what he had heard and went to Madawaska High School Principal Wayne Anderson to ask if his school would be willing to allow additions to the Madawaska softball team.

“Madawaska’s cooperation was very important in this process, and I am glad they were able and willing to do this, as well,” Fantasia said.

Fantasia and Anderson then had to approach the Maine Principals’ Association to move forward with the process that usually needs to be completed months before the start of the season. Anderson said they spoke to Michael Bisson with the MPA who told them, “If you get your two boards to approve it, I will fast track it and go change the name of the teams immediately,” according to Anderson.

As of April 4, the team is now listed as the Madawaska/Wisdom Owls Softball Team to reflect the merger. The MPA required the name change to make both school administrative units are represented, according to Anderson, who said that was less important than giving the girls their chance to play.

“I told them I would absolutely love to have them,” Anderson said. “We were more than willing to do that.”

Anderson said playing time would not be an issue among the girls and that no position would be awarded to any player based on which school they attend.

“Whoever is best qualified to play [and] earns the position will have the position, and the kids are OK with that,” Anderson said.

As for transportation, Anderson said the students would be responsible for getting to Madawaska to practice and to away games, unless the team is heading past Wisdom in which case the bus will pick them up.

“A lot of these kids hang around one another already,” Anderson said. “Whether we’re consolidating schools or consolidating teams, you don’t have that extreme competitiveness among the students to where it becomes obtuse.”

This story originally appeared on the Fiddlehead Focus.