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Youth sports: East Ridge rec softball not 'going away'

There have been rumors swirling through south Washington County that East Ridge Athletic Association In-house softball is "going away."

But, that's not true.

However, the Woodbury, Cottage Grove and East Ridge athletic associations recently announced their two most senior in-house softball leagues, consisting of girls in grades 6-8 and 9-12, would play in a combined league for the 2012 season.

Each organization will continue to form teams under the banner of their respective affiliations but league and playoff games will be mixed between all associations. The two combined upper level leagues may also have teams from Cottage Grove, Woodbury, East Ridge, St. Paul Park, Newport and Oakdale.

The combination is in response to the Woodbury fields policy, which spurred discussions between the associations to further cooperate and improve opportunities and experiences for girls.

"We are excited about bringing traditional rivalries into our in-house programs which we believe will benefit all the associations," said Woodbury Athletic Association Softball Director Jill Miller.

The East Ridge Athletic Association has two years of recreational (in-house) softball under its belt and is looking forward to its third year in 2012. The ERAA has played with the Cottage Grove in-house leagues the past two years and will continue to do so in 2012.

After meeting with representatives from the Woodbury Athletic Association softball program to address ways to have teams from all three associations play in the same league, partially in response to the Woodbury and Cottage Grove city council actions on field priority last summer, the three associations decided to begin with two leagues (grades 6-8 and 9-12) playing together with the goal of having a three-association league at younger ages in the future.

"This is a good first step" said Justin Voerster, Cottage Grove Athletic Association softball director. "Making changes to align fundamental program aspects such as season duration and league age brackets opens the door for additional combinations for the younger ages in the future."

For the 2012 season, the younger leagues (girls in grade 5 and younger) will play as in 2011 - with WAA being separate from the CGAA/ERAA in-house league.

"If things go smoothly we will look to expand the combination to younger leagues in the future," Voerster said. "For now though we will work out the kinks and ensure that we continue to offer quality programs for the girls.'

The associations plan to open registration for 2012 in-house softball in

February. Those with questions are directed to contact their respective athletic association.

Founded in 2009, the East Ridge Athletic Association provides high-quality youth sports programs to student athletes in the communities of Cottage Grove, Afton, Newport, Denmark Township and Woodbury.

The Woodbury softball program started in 1969 and became a part of the Woodbury Athletic Association (WAA) in 1971 when it began. Currently,

WAA provides all children, ages 4-18, living or attending school within the city of Woodbury an opportunity to participate in many different youth sports programs.

The object of the CGAA is to implant firmly into the children of the community the spirit of competition and the ideals of good sportsmanship,

honesty, loyalty, courage and reverence so they may be finer, stronger and happier children and grow to be clean, proud, confident adults. The CGAA is a nonprofit volunteer organization. On a yearly basis, the adults of the program volunteer over 60,000 hours of their time to the children of the community.

The level of cooperation and sharing of ideas in the best interests of all the girls has been phenomenal," said Jeff Bria, ERAA softball director. "East Ridge rec softball has played in the Cottage Grove in-house league since inception, so we are looking forward to adding WAA to the mix."