06/02/13 — ECBL great way for players to hone their skills

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ECBL great way for players to hone their skills

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 2, 2013 1:53 AM

In recent years, the options for local high school baseball players hoping to hone their skills during the summer have become increasingly expensive with few guarantees of playing time.

Junior American Legion baseball was not a cost-friendly option for most local baseball players and coaches couldn't promise a starting spot in the lineup. The schedule included significant travel and weekend games.

That all changed recently.

Southern Wayne head baseball coach Trae McKee along with Charles B. Aycock baseball coach Charles Davis and Eastern Wayne baseball coach Jabo Fulghum collaborated to form the Eastern Carolina Baseball League.

An affordable summer baseball option, the ECBL focuses on skill development and playing time while offering a family-friendly schedule. The league is open to eighth graders through juniors, and was modeled after similar leagues in Johnston and Wake Counties.

The league is compromised of teams from C.B. Aycock, Eastern Wayne, Southern Wayne, Rosewood, Spring Creek, Greene Central, North Lenoir and a combined team from Wayne Christian and Wayne Country Day. Aycock and North Lenoir each have two squads.

Wilson Hunt, Wilson Fike, Wilson Christian, Parrott Academy, East Duplin and South Lenoir are also in the league.

Each team plays a 20-game schedule with games on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Rainout days are Wednesdays and Fridays. The ECBL wished to avoid playing on the weekends to give players the opportunity to play showcase ball if they so desired.

There is no postseason tournament.

Strict rules in Junior Legion caused concern and led to many teams' exits. Courtesy runners were not permitted for either pitchers or catchers, and starters weren't allowed to re-enter games.

The ECBL allows free substitutions, including courtesy runners. Coaches can also put a 10-player lineup in the game.

"We wanted a summer league that rewards players for playing time," Davis said. "With Junior Legion you couldn't re-enter a starter or run for your pitcher or catcher and you couldn't use a DH unless it was for your pitcher.

"You're knocking out a lot of kids that way. This get more kids involved in the game and that's what summer should be like."

The ECBL also provides the unique opportunity for players who rarely get the opportunity for their respective schools to play one another during the spring to go head-to-head during the summer.

"This league gives our younger kids the chance to play some very good competition and to see different people like Wayne Christian and Wayne Country Day," Davis said. "We get to see teams we don't playing during the school year and hopefully it will help the kids improve by next spring."