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Long IslandTowns

LI's summer softball season is upon us

If you're a softball addict like me, each March, your inbox gets flooded with a series of e-mails from leagues looking to recruit owners.

For many, the correspondence is moot - as soon as the New Year came and went, teams were registered, and lineups were already being meticulously constructed. However, some teams and "free agents" - players that sign up alone - are still trying to decide which league to join.

Here's a breakdown of the three Long Island softball powers, Island Softball, ABA Softball, and Major Softball, with some insider info on each league:

ABA Softball

ABA Sports is the powerhouse of Long Island. With softball, basketball and kickball leagues offered, ABA is universally known among Long Island's recreational athletes.

As of three years ago, ABA's strengths were scheduling and a long, fair season, while its weaknesses were in field maintenance and umpire quality. While getting to the games is easy thanks to the online scheduling system, and travel distance limited due to the wide range of leagues, the on-field product with ABA is lacking. Granted, the security of playing for Long Island's biggest league is a plus, but oftentimes, the games felt like they were factory-run.

Leagues available: A long list of available leagues, ranging from western Nassau to eastern Suffolk ... click here for details

Umpre fees: approximately $40

Cost: $1295 and up

Island Softball

With a revamped web site and an intricate statistic system, Island Slowpitch Softball is the dream league for those fixated on batting average, ERA, and home runs.

Similar to ABA, Island is a big-time softball organization. There are scores of leagues for participants to join, including men's leagues, co-ed leagues, night leagues, day leagues, weekend leagues and night leagues. Island comes with a few cons, though. Unfortunately, Island runs primarily out of Suffolk County, so for Nassau residents, each game will be a trip. In addition, field maintenance is not a top priority for Island. Morning games after a rainstorm are often played running around puddles, and teams can expect to do the shoveling and raking themselves.

Leagues available: Too many to list ... click here for details

Umpire fees: $40

Cost: $1495-$2950, depending on the venue

Major Softball

While it stands out in its uniqueness - unlike Island or ABA, Major is run by a single guy, Michael Lynch - Major is the gold standard in terms of all around appeal.

Between field maintenance, umpire quality, and length of play, Major takes care of its league members. On the field, the diamond is always perfectly manicured before games, regardless of the previous night's weather. Umpires are handpicked by Lynch, ensuring experience and quality. And while perks such as a championship at the Ducks' Stadium and personal scorekeepers don't come with the package, the key component, each Sunday's 14 innings of action, is Long Island's best product.

Leagues available: Sunday mornings (Nassau and Suffolk), Sunday evenings (Suffolk), Sunday nights (Suffolk), Weekday evenings (Suffolk), Weeknights (Suffolk) ... click here for full details

Umpire fees: $38 per doubleheader

Cost: $1495 for day leagues, $2295 for night leagues per teams

Bobby Bonett played in ABA Softball from 2005-2007, played in an Island Softball league in the fall of 2009, and has played in Major Softball from 2007-2010.

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