A line of prospective baseball players stretched out the door of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School gym Saturday afternoon during tryouts for the Island’s Little League, which opens its season on Saturday, April 30. Ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old, over 100 kids showed up to showcase their skills and find a place in the structure of the league.
Players took turns throwing drills on the basketball court and swinging at pitches in a temporary mesh batting cage. As each group of players cycled through their drills, a circle of coaches with clipboards took notes to keep track of each player for reference during the draft. The surge of tryouts on Saturday added to the 50 or so players who tried out last weekend.
Everyone who showed up will have the opportunity to play on a team in one of four leagues: Major league (five teams, roughly ages 10 to 12), Triple A (eight teams, ages 8 to 11), Double A (between four and six teams, ages 7 to 9) and T-ball (four to six teams, ages 4 to 6).
Seasoned veterans of the Majors were in the gym also, like Wyatt Thigpen, who just came to throw the ball around and warm up. Those who have already played on a team in the Majors don’t have to try out — they are guaranteed a spot, but not necessarily on the same team. After tryouts, 25 new prospects and 30 returning players will make up an 11-round draft for the five Major league teams.
This new draft process started last year out of concern for fairness, according to Andrew Aliberti, who has coached the Cubs team for seven years, was president of the league, and is now its secretary. “What we found is that there would be really dominant teams, and the weak teams would get strong as their kids grew up,” Mr. Alberti said. The new rules mix the teams up every year, and the result has been a more evenly matched championship series.
Those who don’t make it to the majors will play in the minor leagues — Triple A, Double A, and T-ball, which are assembled by the coaches based on parity.
“We’ve done these tryouts forever,” Mr. Alberti said. “It’s not perfect, for sure, but at least it gives us 10 minutes of seeing if someone is comfortable catching a ball, what the swing looks like, and so on. A lot of it is determined by age.”
Asked why Saturday was so popular, Mr. Alberti replied, “Most of the kids who play seem to have a really good time and come back. There are always these population ebbs and flows. Usually there’s somewhere between 250 and 300 kids.” The total number of players will solidify in the coming weeks, as players for the young teams that don’t require tryouts continue to sign up.