Fairfield American set to ban out-of-town players
FAIRFIELD — A long overlooked rule could create a hectic season for the powerhouse Little League division Fairfield American, and will eventually lead to a ban on out-of-town players.
Fairfield American struck out in an attempt to secure a waiver from the Parks and Recreation Commission that would let it have a blanket field permit for the spring season, despite having out-of-town players on its teams.
Under Parks and Recreation regulations, team sports like Little League, youth soccer and football can only get a blanket permit if their rosters are all town residents. A blanket permit allows a league to submit their schedules once at the start of a season guaranteeing field time.
Field space has been an issue in town for some time, and was the reason behind the residency rule.
Following a Little League International residency rule change in 2011, Fairfield American teams have allowed children to play in the town where they go to school. Town rules, however, still require all members of a team seeking a blanket permit to live in town. Thus, the American League will instead have to make field reservations every two weeks, according to Recreation Director Anthony Calabrese.
“We have all leagues that receive a blanket permit from us provide league rosters with addresses,” Calabrese said. The department’s website lists the specific details for getting a season permit.
Of the 9,972 registered players with Fairfield American since 2011, there were 38 players in that time who attended school in Fairfield but lived elsewhere. None of the 38 registered players played on any Fairfield American World Series team, according to league officials.
It is unclear how Fairfield American was allowed a blanket permit for the past seven years, while having out of town players on teams. Recreation officials said they routinely check the team rosters that are submitted, and for the last several years, found no nonresident addresses.
Fairfield National, the crosstown Little League division, does not allow out-of-towners to play in its league, and new players are asked for proof of residency.
It was during the Parks and Recreation Commission’s February meeting that Matt McGuire, president of Fairfield American, mentioned the out-of-town players.
“When the commission heard that, they informed him it was against town policy and requested that he return to their next meeting to explain, and potentially ask for an exemption,” said Calabrese.
That request failed in a 4-4 tie.
“Given the decision that was rendered, Fairfield American decided to let the six nonresidents remain for the spring season,” Calabrese said. “By doing this, they have lost their blanket permit. This means they have to call in every two weeks to book out all their fields.”
“We were unaware of the blanket permit policy,” McGuire, who is in his second year as league president, said. “It’s been one big misunderstanding.”
McGuire said each year, the new board gets the information they need — like who to contact for field reservations — handed down from the previous board members. Though minutes indicate he was at a 2014 field subcommittee meeting where attendees discussed town field permit requirements, McGuire said he does not recall that discussion. At the time, he said, he was not the president of the league.
“We spent a fair amount of time talking about this,” McGuire said, after learning they would need to either remove the six players or give up the blanket permit. “We felt it was going to be a horrible thing to have to call families” and tell them despite the international organization’s rules letting them play, the town’s didn’t. “The season has already begun, and to step in and take that away from them, it didn’t feel right.”
McGuire said all players will be notified that once the spring season is finished, only town residents will be able to play for Fairfield American.
Until then, he said, “We are going to do everything we can to get the permits that we need, and I’m sure the town will work with us, but they do have to abide by the rules.”
McGuire said there are over 600 children playing for Fairfield American this spring, with games on weeknights and weekends. For a typical Saturday, he said, they use six fields.