Last January, the American Softball Association Commissioners’ Council voted to eliminate “summer employment exceptions” to residency requirements for the 1980 season.
Henceforth, a player’s residence must be established by March 1.
The move was aimed at removing special privileges for teachers and students, who were excluded in the past from having to abide by the March 1 residency rule.
Both teachers and students formerly were allowed three separate areas where they could choose to play:
- The area where their school was located;
- Their place of summer employment;
- Their permanent residence.
Once a teacher or student determined in which of these areas he cared to play, he was not allowed to play in any other area.
In 1975, the two-time slow pitch national champion, Howard’s Furniture of North Carolina, lost the services of their All American second baseman, H.T. Waller.
The ASA’s reasoning was that Waller was a school teacher and permanent resident of northwest Florida, and although he had summer employment in North Carolina, he was not eligible to play.
Howard’s failed to win its third consecutive national championship that season and many believe that the absence of Waller had a lot to do with that.
In 1976, Waller became eligible to play for Howard’s by claiming a full-time residence in North Carolina, even though he still taught school in Florida. That’s when the question arose: “What is a full-time resident?”
Interpretations include a person owning property in an area, having a voter’s registration card, or spending at least part of their time in a given area.
Richard Howard felt that it would be impossible to prove Waller was not a full-time resident of North Carolina, especially with him spending the entire summer there. He was right.
It was the feeling that teachers and students should have to abide by the same restrictions as others that led to the new rules.
To some, this seems somewhat unfair since most school years do not end until June. It Wouldn’t be surprising if the controversy ends up in the courts, which seems ridiculous for an amateur sport.
One answer to the problem would be to abolish any restrictions on residency in the Open Division, while retaining restrictions in the other divisions.
Industrial and church leagues already have strict guidelines concerning team membership. As long as he is not openly being paid by a sponsor, it seems unfair to restrict a player from playing where he desires. And if the sponsor or player can afford travel expenses, why prohibit them?
Many successful sponsors find loopholes in the residency rule to allow their players to live in one area and play in another, and the ASA is not in a financial position to have a full-time security force.
Amateur softball is supposed to be played for fun and recreation, and the rules makers should remember this when making decisions on residency.