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Revival of U25 baseball league eyed

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In this 2017 file photo, the Falcons’ Tindin Deleon Guerrero waits for the pitch during the top of the sixth inning of their game against the Blue Jays in the Senior League division of the Saipan Little League Baseball last Saturday at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield. (Saipan Tribune)

Players ineligible for the Saipan Little League Baseball program will still have an opportunity to see action in the diamond with Saipan Baseball League planning to bring back its U25 tournament, possibly next year.

The SLLB 2020 season was shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving players aging out (those turning 17 next year) of the Senior League division without a competition in the last two years. With this unfortunate event, Braves coach George Camacho, in an earlier report, suggested for a Big League return (the program was discontinued after the 2016 World Series), even in a local level, to cater to players in the 17 to 18 age group.

However, SLLB president and CNMI Little League District assistant administrator Mike Borja said that a Big League tournament can’t be sanctioned by their group or the Little League International, citing rules and regulations under their respective charters. Borja added that other sports group or businesses and even the mayor of the island can create a league for the affected players.

“Even schools can form a league for players in the 17 to 18 age group, but they can’t use the Little League name since the Big League program was scrapped at the end of the 2016 season,” Borja said.

“It’s just unfortunate that our Senior League players did not get the opportunity to play in the past two seasons because of Super Typhoon Yutu and now this pandemic,” the SLLB head added.

In this 2014 file photo, the Jets pitcher attempts to pick up a grounder, while a Braves runner heads to first base during their Big League game. (Saipan Tribune)

Aging out Senior League players’ chances to play one more time under the Little League program were doomed after Little League International announced that no waiver will be issued to reconsider the age cut-off even though the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic.

With the Little League program out of the picture, the next option for the affected players is SBL’s adult league, which could be so tough for the young guns, so coaches, like Camacho, hopes to see a Big League-type event as a stepping stone to SBL.

Enter SBL’s U25 competition, which was last played on Saipan in 2017 and could make a comeback next year if conditions improved and the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield is available, according to SBL official Tony Rogolifoi.

“That’s the plan, if we get the clearance to play baseball again, we will definitely consider bringing back the U25 league. We put up that league when Little League discontinued the Big League program. We want our young players to continue their development,” Rogolifoi said.

Go See Mark Cubs took the championship in the last U25 league after pulling off a 9-8 victory over the Tanapag Falcons in the 2017 season finale. The Cubs were also the pennant champs of the league after finishing the regular season with an 11-1 record, while the Blue Jays earned the third place honors following a 10-9 win over the IPI Pirates.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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