'Lights out' for Montgomery's Fall Ball leagues

By Cody Holyoke - bio | email

Montgomery, Al. (WSFA) -- The City of Montgomery threw a curve ball to hundreds of fall baseball players and their parents, leaving them in the dark.

"Utilities are one of the line items we had to cut," explained Wiley Steen, Director of the City's Parks & Recreation Department.

With increasing pressure to cut costs, Wiley's department is cutting back where it can--which means literally pulling the plug on the lights at public fields.

"I think it would be irresponsible not to save some money, and that's just one of the accounts that we have slashed as much as we can," Steen said.

The announcement meant major changes for the fall league.  Games are now scheduled for Saturdays.  Practices may have to take place until it's too dark to see.

Registration this year is down from 700 kids to nearly half that--an absence of six or seven school bus loads of players.

"If the kids aren't able to play under the lights and are unable to play from 5:00 until dark, they can't get a whole lot of practice in," said parent David Little.

Little helped coach his son Tucker's 'Fall Ball' team for two years, but when the lights went out, they hit the road, joining a nearby travel team.

"We've decided to take our kids and go play in Auburn, Prattville, Millbrook, and other places because they're supporting it," Little said.

With one season changed, and a league cut in half, parents are hoping for a solution--or at least a closer alternative--next year.

"I guess if the economy gets better, and the city's finances get better, maybe the lights will come on.   I hope they do, I'd rather stay in town and play," Little explained.

For now, however, it's 'lights out' as the city faces a financial frenzy.

"The ones who are committed to it and do it for the right reasons--they'll still play--and we'll still be able to save some money," Steen explained.

'Fall Ball' officials say they offered to pay the utility bill for the fields they use during the Fall season, adding it to the cost of registration for players.

The city, however, says those plans were "cost-prohibitive."  The Parks and Recreation Department is already fielding cuts this fiscal year.

The deadline for the city to pass the budget is October 1st.