Lebanon Lions make tough decision -
After 64 years of continuous operation, Lions Club Babe Ruth Baseball in Lebanon is shutting down indefinitely.
While the lights at Charles A. Eskew Field in the Baird Park Complex won't be completely dark, earlier this week the leadership of Lebanon Lions Club officially pulled the plug on the 2020 season.
In its' heyday, the league has fielded leagues for up to 12 teams for boys ages 13 through 15 with rosters topping 150.
The league featured just three squads in 2019 with players from Mt. Juliet and Watertown necessary to bolster rosters.
Games were played against outside teams from White House, Hendersonville and West Nashville in order to allow each local squad to play at least 10 contests.
Dwindling numbers, both in willing players and active club members forced league officials to make a gut-wrenching decision.
"It's been a problem for the past several seasons," said League (and Lions Club) President Jerry Filson. "Babe Ruth baseball state-wide has taken a hit. Our player pool has been shrinking and our club membership has taken a hit as well.
"Travel ball has hurt us, the middle school baseball seasons are longer and we wouldn't get those kids until they were completely finished and soccer is growing."
For the past several seasons cost to play in the league was just $50 and included a cap and jersey.
Other league costs were supplemented by team sponsorships, outfield signage along with profits from the concession stands.
"We've had a core of 18 to 20 really good sponsors through the years, and for that we're so appreciative," Filson said.
While the Lions Club Babe Ruth League has ceased operations for as least the upcoming season, Eskew Field will be utilized by the City of Lebanon's Department of Parks & Recreation.
"It's sad," said Parks Director William Porter said. "There's just not that many young boys who want to play the game just for the fun of it anymore."
Porter said he envisioned Eskew Field being used as an additional practice site for existing teams in Lebanon Youth Baseball (9-12).
"With games going on three and sometimes four nights a week, we need practice fields," Porter said. "There's a batting cage down the third base line, teams can take fly balls in the outfield, grounders on the infield -- that sort of thing."
Porter also said he would be willing to consider tournament play on the field as well as occasional mid-week practice for travel teams.
"That's a good playing surface," Porter said. "We (Parks & Recreation) are not going to allow it to get grown up and unfit for play."
Along with Veterans Field, Eskew Field has been utilized for tournament games in the annual Continental Amateur Baseball Association's annual 14U World Series.
Here's the official statement from the Lebanon Lions Club.
"On behalf of the Lebanon Lions’ Club, we sincerely regret to inform the community, sponsors and coaches, we will be discontinuing Babe Ruth Baseball for the 2020 season.
"The Lebanon Lions have sponsored Babe Ruth baseball for the past 64 years and the program remains near and dear to our hearts.
"During the past several years, participation for the Babe Ruth program has significantly declined. New sporting outlets have since become the front-runners for our youth.
"This decision to discontinue the program did not come easy. However, due to circumstances out of our control, the decision needed to be made.
"We would like to thank to the sponsors, coaches, players and volunteers for their endless hours of commitment.
"Please, continue to drive for sporting excellence and never stop exemplifying the highest levels of sportsmanship.
"Lebanon Lions continue to strive for community engagement, a service spirit, and compassion for our local families.
"These values will continue to drive us as we open doors to new service avenues!
"Thank You to all who put in Countless hours and sacrificed so much for Lebanon Lions Club Babe Ruth Baseball."