What Is Old, Is New Again: Little League® Teenage Baseball Divisions Thrive in Virginia District 9
Playing with friends and for community pride is not lost on the teenagers in Virginia District 9’s Dumfries-Triangle-Quantico Little League (DTQLL).
Mel Barlow has been League President for 14 years and involved with Little League® for more than four decades. During the past 40 years, he admits seeing plenty of change, but the one constant has been families coming together at the ball fields.
During the regular season, the Dumfries-Triangle-Quantico Little League features seven teenage division teams. Come tournament time, one all-star team is formed from the three Junior Division baseball teams, one team is formed from the three Senior Division baseball teams, and its lone Big League Division baseball team also represents the league in district play. Twice in the past three years (2012 and 2014), the league’s Junior, Senior and Big League teams have won the Virginia state championship in the same year.
“Our kids are from three different high schools, but each year they come back together to play Little League,” said Mr. Barlow. “They’re teenagers, but they are still children and want to have fun.”
This past summer, the league’s Senior Division tournament team claimed its fourth consecutive Virginia title. The team broke through at the regional level, winning the Southeast Region tournament, advancing to Bangor, Maine, and the 2014 Senior League Baseball (SLB) World Series. In the SLB World Series, DTQLL reached the semifinals, falling to Latin America Region Champion, Pariba Little League from Willemstad, Curacao.
“Consistently winning at the state level is an amazing accomplishment for the Dumfries-Triangle- Quantico Little League,” said Mr. Barlow. “DTQLL has remained strong and continues to see its numbers expand through the hard work off our Board and its community volunteers.”
No easy task with time so limited and hard choices being made about participating in extracurricular activities for teenagers.
The DQTLL regular season begins in April, yet the league has no problem planning for the teenage divisions. Even though most of the Little Leaguers® are members of their high school programs, the league ensures that they are committed for the spring season by opening player registration in November, and completing its registration days and online registration by the end of January.
Averaging 13 players per team, most of the Junior and Senior teams in the district play each other to get 14-to-15 games per season. The Big League team has a few more logistical challenges, including fewer opponents available in the district, and a minimum 12-game schedule played over three weeks in June.
Still, the support and interest from the older players and their families is unwavering. Mr. Barlow said the league sells itself by word of mouth and pride in the local league.
“The Senior Division players have been part of our league since Tee Ball and their parents have been involved as coaches, managers and league volunteers from the beginning,” said Mr. Barlow. “The success (the league) is having is getting more people interested, and we hope we can grow even bigger.”
Travel ball has a solid presence in Northeastern Virginia, yet Mr. Barlow said there is a lot of pressure to win playing travel ball, and that’s a turnoff to the teenagers he knows.
“Little League is different from travel ball,” said Mr. Barlow. “(Players) come to Little League because it’s fun, and that is why they keep coming back. The teenagers enjoy playing together with their friends like they did when they were 12 years old and younger.”
Tournament play certainly is a draw for the teenage players. Mr. Barlow, who managed the DTQLL Senior Division team in the 2000 Southern Region Tournament, said those experiences are helping the high school programs, while providing broad exposure for the local league.
“We play pretty good ball during the regular season and the kids like playing all-stars,” said Mr. Barlow. “We know the community is paying attention, especially when they go off to states, regionals, and, like this past year, the World Series.”