Sunday, June 11, 2017

Little League baseball---the game the press forgets until tournament time

Growing up in what is now known as the North Central section of Troy, I had spent many nights at Central Little League, strictly as a fan. The little ballpark on 7th Avenue would be packed with parents and casual fans most nights, with quadruple-headers on Saturday & Sunday afternoons.

But, as with their brethren around the city, Central experienced a sharp downturn in interest and attendance in the mid-to-late 80's. and, for a time, folded.

In 2012, Central was reborn, thanks to the efforts of a neighborhood grass roots group which felt the need to get the kiddo's out of the house, away from their video games, and into some physical activity that would have a positive effect on their futures.

On Saturday afternoon, I made my first visit to Central since the ballfields had been renovated---with help from the Tri-City Valleycats, among others---, and noticed a few changes.

The concession stand is now in a pavillion that was built as part of the renovation process. The public address announcer's booth is in the former concession stand, in between two smaller sets of bleachers. Sadly, the PA wasn't working on Saturday, and the kids who were manning the scoreboard were too easily distracted by lunch and other things to pay close attention to the game at hand. Adult volunteers are needed for the PA and the scoreboard, but I suspect that there's not enough money in the budget to even advertise the need in the papers. Gone are the days where the late Carmen Muscatello, an unabashed Yankee fan, would be in the booth. His presence most surely is missed, regardless of the circumstances that led to his leaving Central in the mid-80's.

Anyway, on a hot Saturday afternoon, the first game of the day commenced at 11:30 am (ET). What may be the most shocking aspect is that there are just 3 teams apiece in the major & minor league divisions. The opener was a minor division game between teams sponsored by the Ale House and Pioneer Bank. Pioneer came back from being 4 runs down in the bottom of the 6th to win, 11-10. To say that this is still a work in progress wouldn't be an understatement. It would actually be accurate.

Not enough time is given to these kids after school to practice as a team, and it shows, as basic fundamentals haven't been fully mastered. I'm told that Lansingburgh Little League still runs, but like the other leagues in town, Lansingburgh & Central don't get the press coverage outside of Central's season-opening parade, which was back on April 29. There was a T-ball game on field B, but that came & went before I even had a chance to walk over and take a look. As was the case when I last was a regular visitor in the 70's, Central Little League is co-ed, and the games are played, at least in the minor division, like it was in your backyard, with the fielding issues intact.

When post-season tournaments begin next month, the local press will only pay attention to teams representing South Troy and Twin Town (North Greenbush), as I don't think Central has enough players for an all-star team of their own. In time, Central will grow, but they need more kids interested in learning the game as well as playing, bottom line.
The high school sports season in New York's Section II ended Saturday, and only Fort Ann's baseball team, in Class D, came away a state champion. The Cardinals defeated North Collins to capture the D title. Albany Academy, which won in walk-off fashion Friday to reach the title game, fell to Livionia (Rochester) in similar fashion, 9-8. All four Section II softball teams fell in the semi-final round at Moreau Recreational Fields in South Glens Falls on Saturday. Binghamton defeated Shaker (Class AA), 3-1. Solvay edged Cohoes (B), Deposit beat Fort Ann (D), and Pine Plains knocked out Greenville (C). On Friday, Burnt Hills' girls lacrosse team lost, 19-1, ending their season. Ouch.

Fort Ann's Class D baseball title is their first in 4 years, and 5th overall. Congratulations to the Cardinals and all the other teams for an exceptional season.

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