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Merger complete, Woonsocket Little League sets sail for brave new world

February 1, 2014

WOONSOCKET --- Like everyone else, Lisa Godfrin has not been a big fan of the bitter cold temperatures and occasional snow that have made January a frigid month to bear.

And like everyone else, she would love nothing more than to see much warmer weather, green grass, birds chirping, and a chance to enjoy the outdoors once again.

But Godfrin has an extra reason as to why she’s counting down the days until spring – the start of baseball season for the unified Woonsocket Little League.

This spring, two will become one. The boundary lines have been erased, and the Bernon and East Woonsocket Little Leagues will mold into one new league that plans to not only house more than 500 youngsters (ages 4-18) from the city, but also offer a new, improved program that will surely benefit everyone involved with it.

“This is all about creating a new culture,” said Lisa Godfrin, the league’s secretary/public information officer. “More importantly, this is about coming together. The entire Board of Directors is united in making this league a success, and while we want to honor both league’s traditions and identities, we also want to forge a new path for Woonsocket baseball.

“We are changing the league and it’s going to be different for everyone – the players, the coaches, and the board – but it’s going to be what’s best for the kids in the city as far as baseball is concerned. It’s going to give them opportunities that they did not have before.”

Ever since Little League International in Williamsport, Penn. gave the leagues the green light to merge in early November, the 17-member Board of Directors, led by President Mike St. Germain, have been hard at work getting their league ready for Opening Day.

“Normally, we start planning for the following season in September, so we
were already two months behind,” admitted Godfrin. “But right now, we’re
caught up in the sense that we’re doing what we would normally be doing at
this time of the year.”

One thing both leagues have done in the past, preseason registrations, began last Saturday at the public library, and while they will continue this Thursday, Feb. 6 (from 6-8 p.m.), Saturday, Feb. 8 (9 a.m.-noon), and Feb. 27 (6-8 p.m.) at the library and Feb. 22 (9 a.m.-noon) at the Jimmy Ray Center, they will also be conducted online at www.woonsocketlittleleague.com.

“Last Saturday, we had 62 kids sign up and another 10 do it online,” added Godfrin. “Based on the enrollment of the two leagues, we are projecting to have about 500 kids playing in our league. At our first signup, we were expecting 10 to 15 percent of that number, so we’re right there.”

The new league also began its winter clinics this past Thursday at one of the local elementary schools for the players who have already registered for the season, but because of the high number of players who signed up, consideration is being given to adding additional clinic dates.

“We want to offer them the player development we hadn’t been able to offer in the past,” said Godfrin. “Not only do we want to enhance our player
development, but Dave Jarret, the former president of the Bernon Little League, has stayed on to take on the task of Coaching Coordinator. He will be responsible for working with both managers and coaches to provide them with the necessary training and resources.”

Another aspect of the league that Godfrin stressed is that it is open to any child that attends a school located in Woonsocket, regardless of where they live. This includes all of the city’s public schools, as well as the parochial schools Good Shepherd, Mount St. Charles, and Monsignor Gadoury.

“We want any child that attends these schools the chance to play with their classmates,” noted Godfrin. “Every child that wants to play baseball in this city is going to be able to play.”

And the same goes for softball.

“This is an exciting time for softball,” added Godfrin. “We are finding more interest than expected with girls who were unaware softball was an option in Woonsocket. In just the past week, we have had four ‘new’ players register.

“If that trend continues, we could expect to field one or two additional teams this year. The interest we are seeing could help foster a self-sufficient softball league for girls ages 6-16 for years to come.”

In addition, the league plans to offer a Junior/Senior baseball program this season for players ages 13-18, and registrations for this division will be live on the website starting Monday.

There are still a few hurdles the league must overcome between now and
Opening Day in April, and none is bigger than the opener itself.

“The logistics of where it will be held and how to fit all of the families in a limited space is one of the bigger challenges,” said Godfrin. ”We’re working with the police department, who obviously would be taking care of the traffic, and the Parks & Rec Department is helping us as well.”

From its very first general membership meeting last Nov. 11 to now, the
league has had its share of challenges in merging their ideas and philosophies into one body. But like all successful mergers, nothing is easy at first, and Godfrin noted that the merger “will help strengthen and make this league a force in District 4 baseball and softball.

“We have things settled now,” she admitted. “For the first time in over 50 years, we have a united league in the city where all of our children will play together. It is historic, and it will do great things for the advancement of baseball in this city. Everything’s going to work out fine.”

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