ARLINGTON -- The pinging of a ball hitting a metal bat will be decidedly missing this spring in Arlington, as the school district decided to cancel the varsity baseball and softball seasons at the most recent board meeting.
The decision marks the first time since 1986 that Arlington Memorial High School has not fielded a baseball team, either varsity or junior varsity. The last time there was a break in varsity softball -- if one has ever occurred -- would have been before that, according to Arlington athletic director Tim Stewart.
The Eagle baseball team, led by coach Eric Green, was 6-8 last season.
"There's just no interest in baseball right now. That's the bottom line," said Stewart. "We do have 12 kids at this point signed up for middle school baseball, which is encouraging, but it could take us two years to get varsity back with the way things are looking right now. Obviously we hope to get it back next year, but time will tell."
The downward trend is based on a large graduating class last year -- 29 students out of 101 total in grades 9 through 12. Two-thirds of the baseball team were seniors, Stewart said, and only five students signed up to play this season.
So Stewart went to the school board with the only option -- drop the sports for a year.
"When we heard there weren't enough boys for baseball or girls for softball, [Stewart] recommended dropping to a JV [softball] program. We thought that was probably the way to go, so we agreed to that. There's a lot of competing interests," said Arlington school board chairman Dawn Hoyt.
Those other interests include track and golf. A total of 31 athletes -- 22 on track and nine golfers -- fill those sports nicely as participation has increased exponentially. In addition there are also the Arlington Soccer Club and AAU basketball.
"So people may look at the fact we don't have varsity baseball, but kids are still doing stuff, it's just baseball isn't what they chose," said Stewart. "We're a small school. Any time you have multiple offerings for a sport you have the potential for this right here."
Softball has faced a similar fate. But the sport, at least on the varsity level, was cut in Arlington for a different reason.
"Basically in three years we haven't been competitive. In my opinion, we haven't been competitive," said Stewart. "We haven't finished two of the years. We've had to forfeit games, which does not look good for us dealing with other Marble Valley League schools when you can't follow through on your schedule. Since we weren't competitive, it was time to take a different approach."
Five freshmen and seven sophomores signed up for softball, but only one junior and one senior. In light of that, Stewart said he felt it made sense to play a JV schedule this year. The team will play 10 games this season as opposed to the 16 games played at the varsity level and coached by Eric Green and Glenn Sherman.
Hoyt said the school budgets expecting all the programs to have seasons, but anything surplus at the end of the year goes back to the taxpayers.
While some athletes have decided to switch sports to track or golf (the only two spring varsity level sports remaining in Arlington), others have no place to play.
Vermont does have a Member-to-Member program, which is designed "to either provide a short-term fix for a school with low participation and/or provide an opportunity for a student-athlete from another school to participate on a team," according to the Vermont Principal Association bylaws. The VPA also cites that "no existing player can be displaced by one coming in from a sending school."
The two closest schools, Mount Anthony and Burr and Burton Academy, are both Division I schools. At the early stage of tryouts and practice so far, both seem to have enough athletes in house.
Stewart said that he has had discussions with MAU athletic director Tim Brown about the possibility of Arlington baseball players playing on their team. However, a decision has yet to be reached, Stewart said.
"Tim e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago, he didn't know if they'd have a team," Brown said. "We have 14 kids playing baseball at MAU. Could we take a few more? Probably, but it could displace a kid from starting. It hasn't been strongly pursued."
Hoyt said the reciprocial agreement is possible, but unlikely. She said she sees the changes as a life lesson.
"As a parent, there's always competition, it's a dog-eat-dog world. I'd love to see my kids do whatever they want whenever they want, but it's not reality. Times change and we have to go with the times and trust the administration are making the best decisions," Hoyt said.