The number of games is the same.
But this year’s wood-bat Great Lakes Collegiate League schedule has taken quite a twist this summer.
For the first time, the Locos have no scheduled doubleheaders. They may end up with a few because of rain outs, but the official schedule doesn’t list any on the 40-game schedule.
Another new wrinkle in the GLCL is that 18 times this season the Locos will play the same team on back-to-back nights, either at the same site or on a home-and-home basis.
GLCL commissioner Kim Lance said the key to the new scheduling was cutting back on the doubleheaders throughout the league.
“Before there were teams on the fringe of the league territory that played a lot more doubleheaders than the ones in the central part,” Lance said. “Last fall there was a concerted effort to standardize the schedule. The policy now is the most doubleheaders a team can have is four. What we’ve done is increase the number of single dates for teams and fans.”
That led to teams playing a high number of two-game series throughout the year.
“To make the schedule work, we went with home-and-home games,” Lance said. “We wanted to try to have as many single nine-inning games as possible. … For the most part, everyone is happy with it. Some teams are looking at the economics and travel of it.”
For example the Locos will have single games at Southern Ohio (Athens) on June 15-16 and single games at Lexington on July 24-25. Those will be overnight trips, not to mention paying over $1,000 for the bus trip.
As for the GLCL lineup this year, Stark County is out, while the other 10 teams return. Besides Lima, there is one division with Grand Lake, Lake Erie, Southern Ohio, Dayton, Hamilton, Lexington, Licking County, Xenia and Cincinnati.
Once again, the top six teams will qualify for the playoffs. There will be two one-game play-in games to the semifinals.
The top two teams will receive byes into the best-of-three semifinals. The championship series will also be a best-of-three series.
This marks the fourth straight year the playoffs will be set up in a Major League Baseball series format, as opposed to a postseason tournament.
“Some still like the tournament format,” Lance said. “The thing about the series is that it could go for eight days. And we’d like to believe that players on the teams will stay here, but in 2011 Licking County was down to nine players in the finals.”
The playoffs will begin on Tuesday, July 30 with the play-in games. The best-of-three semifinals will begin July 31.
The GLCL All-Star Game is set for Wednesday, July 10 at Cincinnati’s Western Hills High School, the home of the Cincinnati Steam. The first pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.
Overall, the league has made huge strides under the nine years Lance has been in charge. Prior to his tenure, the league updated its standings once a week, if you were lucky.
Now standings and statistics are updated daily at greatlakesleague.org. Games can also be followed batter-by-batter at the same site. Boxscores are available on-line seconds after the last out.
As for the Locos, Lance said the league looks at making improvements at fields throughout the league, Simmons Field.
“The sun is brutal (over the left-field fence) and lighting has always been an issue there,” Lance said of Simmons Field. “And the dugouts need to be replaced. But the league owners never came out and told the Locos what they had to do. … We know that the EPA could still come in and tear up the field. We only make suggestions to all the teams in the league."
The GLCL keeps changing and evolving.
Cutting doubleheaders will boost a team's income. And, in Lima, the first game of a 4 p.m. Saturday/Sunday doubleheader was usually poorly attended on a muggy 90-degree day.
Playing teams two days in a row should create more interest.
Overall, the GLCL continues to forge ahead.