By Gavin Menu
Despite rumors of a possible demise early in the spring, the Sag Harbor men’s softball league is still kicking at Mashashimuet Park this summer. The league is down to four teams from six last year, but talent levels remain high and competition has been strong.
Following Monday’s action, Madison and Main, a new sponsor to the league for the team formally known as Deckers, held a narrow one-game lead for first place after knocking off Immaculate Pools, 7-6, in dramatic fashion, scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning. Madison and Main improved to 7-1 while Immaculate fell to 6-2.
“But there’s still plenty of season left,” Immaculate skipper Bruce Schiavoni said later.
TS Mott, the two-time defending champion, was in third place at 3-5 while The Bridge is still winless at 0-8.
Talk of late, however, has been more about the future of the league and if the four teams that remain will continue to hang on. Two teams, Agave’s and Sag Harbor Liquors, dropped out of the league after last year, with Liquors having been a perennial power for over 20 years.
“Talking to players in the league, there’s a lot of concern if this league is going to continue to play,” said Fred Marienfeld, who plays for Mott and has replaced Tim Mott this year as the de facto league organizer. “Four teams is the bare minimum. I want to keep it going and I’d hate to see it die, but next year, I don’t even know. I think we are in serious trouble.”
Marienfeld started playing in the league while in high school in the late 1970s when there were 16 teams in two divisions. There were announcers and hot dog stands, and the teams played every night except Saturday and all day on Sunday.
“Ten years later we were at 10, then you got to the single digits,” Marienfeld said. “Now being down to four has me concerned. There’s some good talent mixed throughout the league, I just wish there were more numbers so we could have six or eight teams.”
The talent was especially strong on the field Monday night, with Immaculate and Madison & Main each boasting strong hitting line-ups. Madison & Main’s Danny Bakke and C.J. Shank are the top homerun hitters in the league, but it was Nick Turza and Tyler Gilbride who connected on homeruns in the sixth inning to pad Immaculate’s lead to 6-2. And then Madison and Main came charging back with the five-run final inning.
Sag Harbor, which plays modified pitch softball instead of slow pitch, is not the only league to be struggling. In fact, the East Hampton men’s slow pitch league, which has been in existence since the 1960s, folded completely this year. In a story that appeared in The East Hampton Star last week, Andy Tuthill, a longtime player, is quoted as saying the problem was not so much that interest in the league had faded, but that the time commitment of playing three times per week was too much for many players.
As a result of East Hampton’s league folding, many of the players moved on to play in Montauk, where games are held just one night a week.
“When East Hampton folded I tried to get a couple teams to come in here,” Marienfeld said. “But they wanted to play slow pitch. I said, ‘we’re the ones who still have a league and you can easily teach someone how to pitch modified. There are no star pitchers here.’
“Montauk didn’t let any full teams in, they just distributed the players around,” Marienfeld continued. “I really don’t know what’s going to happen in Sag Harbor.”