KOVAR: What does the future of the Crow River Valley League look like?

There’s a saying that the only thing that’s constant is change. That sums up the Crow River Valley League pretty well the last couple of years and amateur baseball in general.

The CRVL has had a few big changes over the past couple of years and there looks to be even more coming on the horizon. The biggest change recently has been Young America moving to Class B last season. The Cardinals will once again be classified as a Class B team in 2023. Young America officially petitioned to move back to Class C at the November 11 meeting but no motion was brought forward.

The Cardinals were also at the February 11 meeting talking with the state board about options for the 2023 season. Young America requested to forgo section games and the Class B playoffs due to player retention and financials. The state board was not in favor of that move but told the Cardinals they would be allowed to not participate in the 2023 postseason if that’s the choice they wanted to make.

Young America is not the only CRVL team that might be presented with a change in the coming years. Waconia, Carver, and Watertown are all close to the criteria mark and have the potential to be Class B teams in the near future. Waconia and Carver are very close to the line while Watertown has a little bit of flexibility with their roster and the majority of their success came in the past two seasons.

The MBA set a total of 45 criteria points to determine if a team should be classified in Class C or Class B.

The Waconia Lakers are quickly approaching that mark with 42 points. Of their 42 points, 14 are success points and 15 are player points.

The Carver Black Sox are also close to the mark with 40 criteria points. The Black Sox have 10 success points while having 24 player points.

The Watertown Red Devils are the only other team that is near the criteria mark. The Red Devils have just eight player points but have acquired 20 success points, much of which have come in the past two seasons because of their deep tournament runs.

Currently, only one Class C team has been bumped to Class B for the 2023 season. The St. Patrick Irish finished the 2022 season with 50 criteria points. Of those 50 points, 26 were success points.

The points system in amateur baseball is a hot topic no matter who you talk to. All in all, I do think it’s a good system for classifying teams when it comes to player points and dealing with the sizes of towns and/or school districts. The part where I struggle to agree with is the success part of things.

In my opinion, Young America, Waconia, Carver, and Watertown are not Class B teams. While each of them had its fair share of success over the past five years and change, none of them has won a state title.

Success points are an interesting discussion. A team is awarded 12 points if they win a state title, 10 points if they make the finals, eight points if they make the semifinals, six points if they make the final eight, four points if they make the final 16, and two points just by making the state tournament. That means unless there are significant roster changes, both Waconia and Carver are on the verge of being a Class B team if they find any success in the state tournament in 2023. I don’t think that’s right.

When I look back at the 2022 season in the CRVL, it’s safe to say that Young America was definitely missed. Not only do they bring a competitive and talented team to the league, but they also have one of the biggest and most passionate fan bases as well. Their fans were dearly missed this year at the Region 7C Tournament where it was evident.

Young America made a couple of nice state tournament runs in the past few years before moving to Class B. As good and as exciting as those runs were, they never even made a state championship appearance.

I understand that the MBA state board is trying to even the playing field and keep Class C as close to what they want it to be. I just don’t understand how a team who hasn’t even won a state title can be moved up a class. Being successful at the state tournament doesn’t turn a Class C team into a Class B team. The goal of every team at the beginning of the season is to win the championship. It’s not just to make the tournament. It’s not just to make the second weekend. For most teams, not coming with a trophy is a disappointment.

I want to see the best teams playing in the biggest games come the state tournament. I don’t mind if we see a team make the semifinals three years in a row or win a couple of state titles in a row. I don’t think teams should be punished for being good. Teams have stretches where they have a bunch of players in their prime and that’s a good thing. It’s fun to see them be successful and watch them try to accomplish their goal.

Class C has not had a repeat champion since the MBA moved to a three-class system in 1986. It’s not like one or two teams have been dominating the competition throughout. In the past 10 tournaments, only two teams have won multiple state titles – Plato and Sobieski. That means we’ve had eight different state champion teams in the past 10 tournaments. That doesn’t seem like a problem to me.

As much as I love the CRVL and how great of a league it is, I worry about what the future might look like. The league already lost one of its best teams in Young America to Class B. With three more teams on the edge of suffering the same fate, it’s a scary time for the CRVL. If the league were to lose Waconia, Carver, and Watertown as Class C teams, Region 7C would be in trouble. The addition of Westonka and the return of Norwood is huge now this year, but if the league as a whole were to lose four perennial powerhouses in the span of a couple of years, it’s tough to say the CRVL would be able to hold onto its reputation as one of the best leagues in the state.

Currently, the CRVL gets four state tournament bids for the Class C state tournament based on great attendance over the years. You take away those four teams and attendance will drop significantly and might even result in having a state tournament bid taken away.

There’s no easy solution to it all. Rules are rules and I do believe the MBA is doing what they think is best for amateur baseball as a whole. I just worry about what might become of the CRVL in years to come. I’ve been covering the league for almost a decade now and have been following it even longer. I love this league and the players and fans that come with it. It’s going to be an interesting couple of years coming up for the CRVL and I’m not sure what to expect. All I can say is that I hope the league remains strong and remains together. It’s one of the best leagues in the state from top to bottom and has a passionate fan base for all teams that can’t be matched.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports

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