At Little League® International in Williamsport, Pa., and at our Regional Offices, calls and emails come in all year long about different situations that are happening at some of our 7,000 local leagues. Many of these calls and emails inform us of some very positive initiatives spearheaded by our millions of volunteers. However, there are also negative situations.

“Don’t Let This Happen to Your League” details a real-world scenario, how it has impacted a league, and how you might learn from it.

The names have been omitted in the following scenario, but the situation is real.

The Situation

At the end of the previous season, as the local league is closing down for the offseason, the league’s Facilities Manager notices that the concrete sidewalk outside of the “Visitors” dugout has cracked, separated, and heaved so that a corner of the slab is sticking up higher that the rest of the sidewalk.

The Facilities Manager makes note of the broken sidewalk, and at the next Board of Directors meeting makes a motion that he be permitted to get an estimate to repair the sidewalk. The Board votes in favor of getting the estimate, and the Facilities Manager makes his calls so that he can have estimated costs in hand in time for next month’s Board meeting.

At the next Board Meeting, the Facilities Manager presents three project estimates. Each of the estimates vary in cost and labor. After reviewing the proposals, the Board decides it can save some money by NOT going with one of the professional contractors estimates, instead opting to have its volunteers tear up the broken concrete during one of next season’s work days.

The Outcome

During the first work day of the new season, the Facilities Manager and other league volunteers, begin to work on fixing the broken sidewalk. But, as the group attempts to re-set the slab, it’s discovered that the frost from the hard winter has lifted other pieces of the sidewalk, making it dangerous to walk on.

Now faced with a bigger, more costly problem, and with only a few weeks before the start of the season, the group decides to try to level the broken slabs by digging up the pieces and resetting them with fresh mortar and concrete sealer.

At first, this approach looks to be successful, but as the ground continues to thaw, the slabs again crack and separate. Three weeks after the repairs were made, the league hosts its Opening Day. During the first game of the season, one of the visiting team’s players, leaves the dugout between innings to use the rest room. In his haste to get back to the dugout, the player trips on the corner of the poorly repaired sidewalk, falls, and hits his chin on the pavement with such force, that his bottom teeth cut through his top lip.

The player is taken to the emergency room, where he receives several stitches, is checked for a concussion, and misses most of the season.

The league submits an accident insurance claim to potentially cover the medical costs for the player after his primary insurance considers the charges, and fortunately avoids any further legal action from the family.

The Solution

Safety is always paramount and takes precedent over any budget concerns. Little League’s A Safety Awareness Program (ASAP) reinforces the importance of being prepared to deal with crisis by educating leagues on how to make their program safer. The league Safety Officer, can assist in completing and submitting an ASAP plan, which includes a facility survey. When a league completes its facility survey, the results are expected to drive planning, and, if applicable, provide direction on how to allocate funds for maintenance of their facilities. When your league discovers anything that can put a member of your league, or visitor to your facility, at risk, then it must be assigned the highest priority. Accidents will happen, but if your league is diligent to gather the information and expertise needed to address the issue, then you have taken the level of responsibility needed to make proper repairs, in order to limit the risk and exposure of future injury.