SOCI 303 – Dr. Mark Jacobs
December 2, 2012
Vienna Little League on a Losing Streak:
A study of possible factors for declining little league baseball enrollment as an indicator for changing cultural preferences and values in the Town of Vienna
An American icon in the tide of change
Baseball has long been a cherished recreational activity and an integral part of American life and culture. Over time, many baseball terms have become main stream idiomatic expressions in U.S. English, such as something is “in the ballpark” when an action or results fall within commonly accepted and expected boundaries or someone is asked to “step up to the plate” to take status-changing action. In many respects, baseball can be seen as a metaphoric reflection of American cultural and social values. Take for example the many variations of the beloved story of the unassuming underdog baseball player who rises to fame or the disjointed team that manages to rally and win a highly coveted championship trophy, or the notion that there is hope until the very end because “anything can happen in baseball” . Numerous American classics such as The Bad News Bears (1976), The Sandlot (1993), and Perfect Game (2000) build their coming of age stories around baseball as the quintessential American boyhood experience. Why is it then that the love for little league baseball seems to be waning in the small town of Vienna, Virginia? Vienna’s little league proudly celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012. On a less positive note, however, the organization has experienced a significant decline in registrations over the past decade. As a result, Vienna Little League, Inc. (VLL) decided in 2011 to convert from a three-league system back to a two-league system. The decline in enrollment seems perplexing considering that the town’s population has been growing steadily over the last decade. Significantly declining VLL registration numbers raise concerns with respect to the financing of single-use recreational facilities such as the 4 baseball parks managed by VLL in the Town of Vienna as well as the extent and focus of future public and private investment in community facilities and services. Is VLL dealing with a short-term phenomenon or a long-term trend? The identification of contributing factors of the current enrollment trend is important to enable VLL to proactively address the issue, find possible solutions to counter-act the declining enrollment, and manage their resources appropriately today and with an eye toward the future. This study considers ethnic and cultural diversification, socio-economics, and last by not least baseball’s appeal to today’s generation of parents and children as contributing factors for the declining VLL enrollment numbers with special focus on the years between 2000 and 2010. The research is based on quantitative data analysis, interviews, and field observations. Brief history of Vienna Little League
Table [ 1 ]: Census data for population in Vienna, VA, Social Explorer 2012, VLL enrollment numbers obtained from Opening Day programs and the VLL commissioner, Brian Smith Table 1: Census data for population in Vienna, VA, Social Explorer 2012, VLL enrollment numbers obtained from Opening Day programs and the VLL commissioner, Brian Smith Vienna Little League was founded in 1952 and started its first season with about 160 players at Glyndon Park. A new little league ballpark was commissioned in 1959 and relocated in 1962 to its current location which now features a total of 3 baseball diamonds, batting cages, and a snack bar and is known in the community as Yeonas Ball Park. In response to the increasing popularity of the program, VLL purchased over 6000 acres along Old Courthouse Road in 1966 to build additional baseball fields and in the following...