As deputy county administrator for Columbia County, Scott Johnson said he had heard some complaints about the way the county's recreation department selects its Dixie Youth baseball all-star teams.
"If all the coaches in the league kind of worked together, they could get certain kids on the team that they wanted," Johnson said of the concerns he heard. "They may or may not have been the best players, and they may have been players who had played for them in the past."
In that system, coaches would nominate players from their team, then the all-star team coaches would select the 12 players for the squad.
The issue -- and the complaints -- hit home with Johnson, because he coached Columbia County Recreation Department baseball teams for about eight years. So, he decided to try to do something about it.
"I encouraged the recreation department to look at a different way of doing it ... to see if the way we were doing it was the right way to do it," Johnson said.
After staff members examined the process, they decided that a change was in order.
One of the main problems surfaced in leagues with two divisions, said CCRD Athletic Supervisor Ken Warner. Coaches were having to decide between players despite not having seen some of them play. With two divisions, not all of the teams play one another.
Instead of relying on coaches to make those judgments, the recreation department decided to have a tryout-based selection process.
The changes were approved in May by the Board of Commissioners, and this year's all-star teams were selected using the new process. Warner said the change applies only to leagues with two divisions.
"Kids came out, and we put them through fielding and throwing and hitting," Warner said. "They were evaluated by a group of five people who weren't involved in the league during the regular season."
The independent panel rated the players, and the top nine automatically made the team. The coaching staff then met to select the final three players.
Warner thought the new method succeeded in providing a equal opportunity for all players.
"I was pleased with the way it went," Warner said. "I think it gave kids that were involved a fair shake. ... It took some of the politics out of it."
Johnson helped with the evaluations for this year's all-star tryouts. He said he liked how the process turned out, with all players on an equal footing.
"Just because he may not play travel ball in the off-season, or just because he may not play at one particular middle school, he is still a good kid and a good player," Johnson said. "And he deserves the chance to play all-stars if he's good enough."
Both Warner and Johnson said they have received few complaints about the changes.
The new policy was part of the updated CCRD Athletic Policy Manual. While the manual was reorganized to become more streamlined and easier to read, Warner said, the only other policy change centered on age divisions for youth football.
Instead of grouping players in two-year divisions, such as 7-8 and 9-10, the recreation department decided to go with single-year divisions -- 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 -- though the 11-12 division remained intact.
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