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Girls softball dropped from league's roster

Parents complain that this is yet another slight, but Little League officials say there wasn't enough interest.

The Northeast Little League will not offer softball this fall, a decision that upsets parents who already accused the league of treating girls unfairly.

The league president said the Northeast Little League board based the decision on Northeast's lack of softball fields and the relatively small number of parents who wanted their children to play softball.

The development isn't a complete surprise; earlier this year, league officials had said they might get rid of softball. Still, parents who had planned to sign up their daughters for softball are angry about the decision.

"I think it stinks," said Carol Bailey, whose daughter Erica played on a Northeast team in the spring. "Now we have to go to another community to get what should be offered in our own community."

Bailey said she probably will take her daughter to the Temple Terrace league, which is far less convenient from her Tampa Palms home than the Northeast fields in Cross Creek.

Like many other parents whose daughters played softball in Northeast Little League during the spring, Bailey thought the league gave girls short shrift. Parents said the league allowed make-them-up-as-you-go rules to govern the softball games, while the baseball games were much more structured.

Parents also complained that their daughters had to play on teams with girls of various ages. One team had players ranging from 8 to 12 years old, while the baseball teams had narrower age ranges.

But the league said it treated girls fairly. League president Greg Aghoian said there were some differences, but those were based on a smaller number of girls who played in the league and the fact that the fields are designed for baseball, not softball.

Aghoian said the board made the decision not to offer softball before sign-ups began. Even so, he said, the board decided there was lack of interest, based on the number of girls who played in the spring.

Northeast had 43 baseball teams in the spring, compared with four softball teams.

He said the board will decide at a future meeting whether to offer softball next spring. He added that, as always, the girls are welcome to sign up for baseball teams, although few girls have played on Northeast baseball teams in the past.

Greg Sweeting, who coached the Firestix softball team in the spring, was angry when he heard about the decision to drop softball. Sweeting said he tried to sign up his daughter for a softball team but was told it was canceled.

"These girls were looking forward to playing," he said. "Why should they have to go to Temple Terrace or Land O' Lakes?"

He said his daughter may join the Temple Terrace league, or she may stop playing softball altogether and take up another sport.

Sweeting and other parents said it would be much more convenient for them if Northeast hadn't canceled softball for the fall. But some of the parents see a bright side of the situation, especially after their frustrations during the spring season.

"It's probably just as well," Bailey said. "I'd just as soon have her play where they're interested in having girls play."