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Mendon and Upton Youth Baseball to Unite for 2016
After years of Mendon and Upton running separate youth baseball organizations, the two towns will come together this year for the first time — following in the footsteps of other local youth sports leagues and creating a new baseball league, Nipmuc Youth Baseball.
The new organization brings together Mendon Jr. Baseball and Upton Youth Cal Ripken. Together with Mendon/Upton Senior Baseball, which will remain unchanged, the league is expected to serve over 500 players from ages four through 18, according to league president Steve Bern.
"We have been discussing this amongst ourselves and we came to the conclusion this was the right time to come together as one baseball organization," Bern said. "There are a lot of benefits, not only to the players but to the businesses who might want to sponsor a team or buy a banner. They will now have it in multiple locations across the two towns."
Bern said the youth league will adopt the Cal Ripken rules, with nine and 10 year olds playing on diamonds with 60 foot base paths and 46 feet from the mound to home plate. Eleven and 12 year old players will use 70 foot base paths and 50 feet from the mound to the plate, Bern said. He said a dip in participation was part of the impetus for the change.
"The numbers were down, there are a lot of options for kids to play other sports and this was a good time to get a more competitive baseball program," Bern said. "Plus the other sports, football, soccer, lacrosse, softball, they are all together. We were the last sport that was separate."
Most parents have had a positive reaction to the change, Bern said, though he added there have been some who preferred the old, two-town format. 
"The biggest challenge has been trying to bring everything together," Bern said. "We have been meeting once every two weeks and it's been a lot of talking about what each organization did and what we should do going forward. In some cases, we are doing what Mendon did or what Upton did. In some cases, someone has come up with a new idea."
Bern said the number of teams will double for this year from four to eight in each of the respective age groups and a player's home town will have no bearing on the team for which he or she ends up playing. The new website for the league is NipmucYouthBaseball.com and registration to play this spring is expected to last into early February, Bern said.
The board of directors will, appropriately, have nine members — five from Mendon and four from Upton. In addition to the spring leagues, Bern said the change will create new opportunities for players in summer baseball.
"By combining the leagues, we will have more options for summer baseball and there are some competitive leagues we might be able to be a part of," he said. "There are options for weekend tournaments, local tournaments, and other options. It's been a really good experience, so far."




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