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Hager City team denied entrance into SCVL

RIVER FALLS -- The Hager City Skeeters, a new area amateur baseball team, was denied admission into the St. Croix Valley League.

At its winter meeting Sunday in River Falls, the league voted to accept a team from St. Croix Falls while asking the Skeeters to wait a year before re-applying for admission.

"I think a consensus developed after a lot of discussion that Hager City needs to play a full season before entering the league," SCVL President Steve Truttman said.

St. Croix Falls joins the SCVL as a full member, eligible for the Wisconsin Baseball Association state playoffs. The league will have 11 clubs with an unbalanced schedule. Teams in the North Division will play 15 games and South Division teams will play 14 games.

That discussion took up the bulk of the four-hour meeting. Representatives from both Hager City and St. Croix Falls first made presentations asking for admittance.

Mike Maves, who is planning to manage the Hager City ballclub, said that while the team would play this season regardless of whether they got into the league, membership would be a big boost to their efforts.

"Obviously being a part of the league would give us a lot of legitimacy and really help in establishing ourselves," Maves said, "and it would be a big help in scheduling games."

There were several key differences that explained why St. Croix Falls got in and Hager City did not. The St. Croix Falls River Bandits has played in the Eastern Minny League for the past two seasons. They have an established ballclub with funds and business sponsors and they had support from members of the North Division of the SCVL, especially Osceola. Both clubs are looking at the possibility of scheduling doubleheader games on the weekends using Osceola's Okey Park facility, considered one of the best in the league.

Hager City, on the other hand, is just starting out. And while they've made strides at attracting donor support, making improvements to the Brown Facility to make it playable for amateur baseball and have uniforms and a roster of players, there were some who expressed skepticism at their efforts. Criticism came especially from representatives for Bay City and Ellsworth. Both clubs feel that a Hager City squad could hurt them in obtaining new players from the Ellsworth school system and in receiving sponsorship funds from local businesses.

"I don't think we can allow a team into our league that hasn't played a single game yet," Garrett Birkel of Ellsworth said. "Let them prove themselves first by playing an independent schedule."

In fact, there was plenty of sentiment not to allow any new teams into the league at all. A vote was taken on a motion to keep the league at 10 clubs which tied on a 5-5 vote. Truttman, who as league president has the power to break ties, declined to do so.

"I felt that on a matter as important as this to our league and give my ties to Bay City, we needed more discussion on the issue to hash out a solution." Truttman said.

St. Croix Falls was then voted in on an 8-2 vote. A motion was then made to ask Hager City to re-apply for league membership next year which was adopted unanimously. The meeting also voted 9-1 to cap the size of the league at no more than 12 teams.

"I was surprised the issue came up and was approved so easily," Truttman said. "But I think it's a good idea. You don't want to expand too much or you'll stretch things out too far. We had that problem with the Cannon Valley League, which expanded to places like Eagan, Burnsville and Prior Lake and pretty soon the character of the league changed and those clubs eventually took the name away from us. That's why clubs like Bay City, Red Wing and Meisville are in the Classic Cannon Valley League."

There will be another league meeting in April in Ellsworth to finalize the league schedule and team rosters. League play is tentatively set to begin April 27 and run until the end of July.