Somewhere outside Amherst there is a 9-year-old dreaming of playing baseball in the town this spring, says Peter G. Ruppar of Amherst Girls Softball.
"He's standing in front of his mirror practicing his batting stance," he said.
But under the new rules adopted by the Amherst Recreation Commission, that 9-year-old won't be able to play on an Amherst team.
The commission voted unanimously Nov. 21 that any youth participating in a league or club using a facility owned or operated by the town "must reside within the boundaries of the Town of Amherst effective Jan. 1, 1990."
Patrick Rimar, chairman of the commission, said its members have spent hundreds of hours on the issue of residency.
"This has been an issue every year," he said. "Every time we come up with a way to be fair to children, the adults find a way to screw it up."
The residency requirements came up for review in 1987, when three boys from the Rochester area joined the Amherst Major Squirts Hockey Team. Their parents had bought land along Millersport Highway to comply with regulations that families of hockey players had to own and pay taxes on Amherst land suitable for the construction of single-family homes.
The Recreation Commission approved new rules that year requiring recreation program participants to live in the town or attend school there. The families of the Rochester youths then rented apartments and filled out school registration forms, but the boys were not attending the Amherst schools.
The commission reaffirmed its rules and found the boys ineligible for the team.
The commission's newest rules have been criticized by many of the major youth athletic leagues in Amherst. The leagues have suggested the regulations be softened to allow youths living within the Williamsville, Amherst or Sweet Home school districts to participate. Representatives of many of the leagues attended the commission's meeting last week.
Some, like the Amherst Soccer Association, use facilities of both the town and the Williamsville, Amherst and Sweet Home school districts.
The new regulations would force the association to exclude non-resident students from each of the public school districts, because district boundaries extend beyond town lines. "Exclusion of these students could most assuredly jeopardize our relationships with the school districts and leave us in a position where we would not have anywhere near the number of fields necessary to meet the needs of our teams," said Art Jaspe, executive vice president of the Amherst Soccer Association.
Jaspe said about 100 of the soccer association's 1,253 participants will be affected by the new residency rules.
Representatives from many of the leagues endorsed the broader residency requirements, and suggested the commission consider a user fee for those participants who are residents of Williamsville, Amherst or Sweet Home school districts but are not town residents.
Ray Kelleher, president of Mel Ott Baseball, said the league's older teams use some Town of Amherst fields. Twenty to 30 percent live in the Town of Tonawanda but attend Sweet Home schools, he said.
"We're going to have to tell the children once they reach the age of 12, you can't play Mel Ott baseball," he said.
Rimar promises the commission will consider the objections of leagues and parents, and should decide by its Feb. 20 meeting if it will reconsider its new policy. But he noted the policy is in place today, and teams who register out-of-towners before the commission's meeting run the risk of having those youths remain ineligible to play.