Four-sport high school athletes have been a dying breed in Wisconsin.
With the end of summer baseball after this season, the opportunity to play four sports in one school year will be nearly nonexistent.
Scott Holler, coach of four-time summer champion Oak Creek and vice president of the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association, said it was a necessary change.
“It is unfortunate that kids prior to this move were able to play four sports,” he said, “but you have to make the best decision overall as opposed to a select few.”
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s decision to end the summer season — which has been around since 1964 — was based purely on numbers of participants, according to Wade Labecki, the WIAA executive in charge of baseball.
Peaking at 110 participating teams in 1999, those numbers would have dwindled to the low 30s or mid 20s as early as next season.
“It’s always been a discussion, has been for 15 or 20 years,” Labecki said. “With only 31 remaining for the 2019 season and another six possibly moving to spring, there wasn’t enough to justify a WIAA tournament.”
Holler, whose team was set to move to the spring season in 2019 regardless of the WIAA decision, said even the few remaining coaches knew the end was near.
“There were a lot of coaches in the summer who were just waiting for a change to be made,” Holler said.
Lake Country Lutheran coach David Bahr said it wasn’t so much a decision made by the WIAA as it was by the schools themselves.
“The WIAA ended summer baseball,” Bahr said, “because the schools decided they were leaving.”
The emergence in recent years of summer travel teams — teams not affiliated with high schools — was the biggest factor in teams making the switch to spring, Holler said.
“I kind of saw it coming,” he said. “A lot of teams in the summer were losing kids to travel teams.”
With more younger players choosing travel ball, it became increasingly difficult to develop talent, he said.
“I was seeing freshmen and sophomores paying a lot of money to play 60 games instead of 30,” Holler said. “It’s not about losing the top players, it’s about losing a level of play at the lower levels.”