The Diamond Dish would like to welcome you to the start of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 calendar year of softball. We are so grateful for your readership and support as we continue to fly the banner as an independent voice within the landscape of the sport we all love to play, watch and follow.
The 2016 NAGAAA Winter Meetings just wrapped up this past weekend at the gorgeous, eye-poppingly lavish, five-star host hotel for the 2016 GSWS, the JW Marriott in Downtown Austin, Texas. Trust us when we say…you are going to want to loosen the purse strings and stay at this hotel in August while at the World Series. You will not regret it. Here’s a highlighted overview of the happenings at this year’s Winter Meetings.
The meetings took up some important topics with several motions by the international delegation coming up for a vote. In this post, the highlights of the meetings will be listed and discussed, but out of all of the proposals that were adopted either for this year or for the 2017 season, one proposal that was adopted truly stands out above the rest.
THE COURTESY RUNNER
Beginning this season at the NAGAAA Cup in Dallas, Texas and at the 40th Annual GSWS in Austin, Texas teams will be allowed to use one courtesy runner per inning. Now, some of you reading that might say, why is adding the use of a courtesy runner that important?
Okay, maybe the idea of using a courtesy runner is not itself that important, but how this new rule has been implemented certainly is. NAGAAA uses ASA rules and this new provision follows true ASA rules regarding using courtesy runners. At NAGAAA’s big two tournaments this year, not only will a team be able to use a courtesy runner once per inning, but that courtesy runner can be anyone on the roster. That’s right folks, any person on the roster, NOT the last out.
This could literally be a game changer for teams at the NAGAAA Cup and the GSWS. Adopting the courtesy runner provision comes on the heels of the international voting delegation deciding to implement a 1-1 count for this year’s NAGAAA Cup and GSWS at the last set of meetings in 2015.
The game of slow pitch softball is an offensive game by nature. The softball comes across the plate slower making it easier to hit, which is why there are certain bat restrictions and ball core restrictions to try and slow the speed and velocity of those hits that come easier due to the slow nature of the pitch. With all that being said, both of these changes, the courtesy runner change and the move away from a 0-0 count to a 1-1 count encourage offense in an already offensive game. Look for higher scores and possibly more innings being played within time limits at the NAGAAA Cup and GSWS this year as a result of these changes.
CHANGES ALREADY FOR NEW BASE RUNNING QUESTIONS CRITERIA
Another item taken up by the delegation was brought forward by the folks voting from Orlando, Florida. While the Orlando delegation expressed concern regarding the speed components and if those are really fair or not, the change that ultimately passed to be implemented at this year’s NAGAAA Cup and GSWS was the deletion of the “using of a base coach” criteria in the new base running ratings questions.
As you may have read in the Diamond Dish’s previous post wrapping up the 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings, a system of “Speed + 1” was instituted for 2016. Now, before those changes take effect at either the NAGAAA Cup or the GSWS they’ve changed. With the base coach criteria out of the picture, players will be judged on their speed along with one of two other criteria. This will not change much and may actually serve to hurt lower division players more in regard to raising their ratings unnecessarily. Look for the actual speed designations themselves to be up for debate at the Summer Meetings this August after leagues across North America have had a chance to see how the changes effect each league.
LOWER GSWS TEAM FEES
Something that none of us see these days, except maybe at the gas pump, are prices going down. The teams participating at this year’s GSWS will see their team fees to enter the tournament go down by $50 from $550 to $500. Many leagues pay these fees for the teams that qualify, but regardless of who is writing the check there will be less cost associated to participate in the most anticipated tournament of the year.
IS THE GSWS HEADED TO TAMPA IN 2018?
Tampa bid unsuccessfully for the 2017 GSWS, losing the bid to a very prepared and professional Portland, Oregon bid committee. The Executive Board will vet Tampa’s bid to host the 2018 GSWS and with no other cities applying to bid, it looks like Tampa will be hosting pending NAGAAA Executive Board and delegation approval at the 2016 Summer Meetings. With exciting facilities being built or being discussed to be built in places like Atlanta and Houston among others, it will be interesting to see who will throw their name in the hat for the 2019 GSWS at the 2017 Winter Meetings in Portland.
Is DES MOINES, IOWA the NEXT NAGAAA MEMBER CITY?
While it hasn’t been unusual over the past few years to see a non-NAGAAA city attend the meetings to explore joining the organization, the delegation from Des Moines, Iowa looks like the most promising city in the past several years to be able to stick to a path to NAGAAA membership. The Pride Sports League of Central Iowa nearly amassed six teams for its most recent Fall league and Des Moines has been sending a team to several regional weekend tournaments over the past two years. As the profile of NAGAAA continues to grow and as we all continue to tell the story of this very special organization, growth will be inevitable. Where cities like Louisville and Charlotte have flirted with NAGAAA membership in the past and cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland have moved away from their previous NAGAAA ties, Des Moines has a unique place geographically on the map and can pull participants from another growing Midwestern city like Omaha, Nebraska to its East. Stay tuned to see if NAGAAA grows by one more city soon.
DONATION TO JOE BALZER
It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of arguing minute details at meetings, sequestered in a hotel meeting room for 20 hours over the course of two days can create tunnel vision. Once again, the NAGAAA Executive Board and the international delegations shows that they all ultimately understand what the organization and our brand of softball is all about. It’s about family. Joe Balzer, a respected umpire from Minnesota, Assistant UIC at the 2015 GSWS and a friend to many, fell gravely ill while in Las Vegas, Nevada for the 9th Annual Sin City Shootout over a week ago. We all hope that he is on his way to a full recovery, but the often insane expenses that come with a major health scare like Joe’s prompted NAGAAA to donate $1,000 to his cause. Get better soon Joe and we should all be happy to see that NAGAAA doesn’t just send prayers and thoughts, but they back up those feelings of family monetarily in drastic times.
GROWING the A Division in 2017
The A Division stands to have several new players by the time the Portland Series of 2017 rolls around. This year’s NAGAAA Cup and GSWS will continue to allow B team caps at 185 per team, however starting in 2017 the B team cap will be lowered to 175, which could speed up the long sought after process of evening out the upper divisions from a participation standpoint.
TWO SUB-DIVISIONS COMING FOR THE MASTERS DIVISION
In part to a huge increase in attendance at the 2015 GSWS by Masters Division teams, the Masters Division will have two sub-divisions beginning at the 2017 GSWS. The two divisions will be named, Classic and Legend making designations between skill level within the division. The Classic sub-division will allow a team cap of 135 with no players rated over 16. The Legend sub-division will allow a team cap of 115 with no players over 12. If anyone watched Masters Division games at the 2015 GSWS, it was very clear that there were teams playing each other that did not need to be playing each other based on sheer skill level. It was the right move to make this designation from a player safety standpoint if nothing else.
NEW NAGAAA EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBERS ELECTED
Fierce and competitive elections were held for three NAGAAA Executive Board positions. The secretary, assistant commissioner and business development positions were up for election. Two of the races featured candidates seeking re-election. John “JT” Thomas from the Twin Cities sought reelection and won it against Ryan Holdhusen, former Vice President of Dallas Series 2014 and current PSSA Board Member in Dallas, Texas. Jack Neilsen, from Chicago was seeking reelection against Catherine “CJ” Kelly, former NAGAAA Committee Chairperson and Kansas City resident. CJ Kelly won the election and is the new business development board member. While all three races were hotly contested, the closest of the three races was for the assistant commissioner position. Keith Speers of Columbus, Ohio took over the position mid-term from former assistant commissioner and NAGAAA Hall of Famer, James Williamson over a year ago. He did not seek reelection, which opened the race up to two very different faces. Paula “PC” Cline, former NAGAAA Member at Large and former longtime commissioner of the Denver Area Softball League ran against Kevin Riddle, former longtime commissioner of the Metro Nashville Softball Association. Mr. Riddle took the election by a mere four votes and will take over the NAGAAA assistant commissioner duties.
We’re just getting started this year in regard to covering everything NAGAAA related across North America. Whether your league is just weeks away from starting or still months away from getting going, check back with us early and often as we at the Diamond Dish put our best foot forward to tell the stories associated with the sport we love to play. Good luck to everyone at each and every tournament this year and as always, we implore you to travel to many of the fair cities across our continent to experience softball in different and increasingly diverse ways.
Thanks for all your work communicating the results from all the NAGAAA meetings and events, you do a fantastic job! This may not be the optimal forum for this, but not sure where else to put it: lowering the team rating for B to 175 is unlikely to grow the A division long term. With an unlimited cap on A, teams rated 176 to 185 are not likely to ever be competitive with teams like the current Atlanta Elite or Houston Force, which is why most of the move up teams eventually move back down, if they move up at all. Increasing the number of teams in the A division is a complicated question and not an easy one to answer.
Even in straight ball, the top divisions are quite small — very talented, but small. If you want to keep lower rated teams in A, you could create a rating cap for A teams – but then you’re undermining the whole idea of a top division, and it really is fun to play the very best teams that can possibly be put together and it would be a shame to lose that. You could do like USSSA does and create a top tier ‘conference’ concept comprised of something like A and a new AA or major, with a rating cap for A, major division or AA being unlimited.
Another idea could be to create tiered incentives – for winning B you get X, but for winning A you get X + something. Right now, there’s not much incentive for the top B teams to move up to A – there’s essentially nothing in it for them.
Anyway, it’s an interesting question, but not an easy one to answer.
Thanks for all you do!
Thanks for your comment Joe. Whether teams are competitive or not in the division isn’t what the changes are about. It’s about fundamentally changing what the division looks like. My point is that the A Division isn’t going to look like what it has looked like previously. You definitely made great points!
thanks for the reply. now i’m even more intrigued!