Tag: little league

All MLB Needs is a Trip to the LLWS in 2021 The New York Extra/


By Lenn Robbins

Some people feel reborn every morning when they hear the sound of birds chirping and doves cooing. Dave Belisle prefers the crack of the bat and thump of the ball as it hits the glove.

08/25/09 soth shore little league at world series williamsport pa south shore enjoys an after game pizza party at lemade stadium last nite Neil Miller The New York Extra/ copyright 2020

Belisle gets to hear that cacophony of baseball sound every spring, summer and fall. His property backs up to three diamonds in Cumberland, R.I. – Little League, softball and regulation.

You might remember Belisle. He was the head coach of the Cumberland American Little League team. After a heartbreaking 8-7 loss to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West squad in a 2014 Little League World Series elimination game, Belisle gathered his distraught players in short right field and delivered as heartfelt and uplifting post-game talk you’ll ever hear.

08/25/09 soth shore little league at world series williamsport pa south shores gathers in the outfield with coach mike zaccarela Neil Miller The New York Extra/ copyright 2020

 “It’s been an incredible journey,” Belisle said. “We fought. Look at the score, 8-7, 12-10 in hits. It came to the last out.  We didn’t quit. That’s us! Boys, that’s us!”

There will be no Little League tournament this year, which means the single best American sporting event of the summer has been victimized by the coronavirus.

“It’s the kids I miss,” said Belisle. “All ballplayers feel same way. They get to play the game they played with their buddies forever. It’s the practice and preparation. It’s the unity. They take pride they have putting on that jersey and playing the game with buddies that will be lifelong friends. That’s what I miss.”

I won’t miss major league baseball, which will begin “Spring Training” Wednesday, barring another possible virus delay. I’ll watch MLB’s 60-game season, because there’s little else for a sports fan to do but it will be background noise.

How I would trade the Little League tournament for MLB. It’s amazing each summer to watch 12-year-olds play the game at such a high level, with such discipline and so much more.

Little League is running it out every time a bat hits a ball. It’s pitchers shaking hands with the batter they just hit. It’s players not arguing with umpires. It’s teams shaking hands after games, often with the players from the winning side consoling those from the losing team.

It’s fans sliding down hills on cardboard boxes. It’s communities from Cumberland, R.I., to River Ridge, La., and Curacao to Tokyo being galvanized by their children and their neighbor’s kids. That’s what I will miss this summer.

According to an ESPN poll, baseball fans overwhelmingly (77-percent) approve of the 60-game season, with the Yankees and Nationals playing as per the NY Post. The poll might need an asterisk, like the Astros 2017 World Series title, because the worldwide leader in sport televises its fair share of MLB.

Don’t be mistaken. We’re not comparing Little Leaguers to MLB pros. We’re asking, when does the game that little boys play with so much joy and passion, get so polluted by contracts and vesting and revenue sharing?

“The only thing that gets in the way of baseball is money,” said Belisle. “Not when you’re in Little League. There is no money. It’s just the game.”

Is it as sad and complicated as money – the scorching hot animosity that exists between owners and players? Is it knowing that MLB and the MLBPA will sue each other with allegations of bad faith negotiating? Is it knowing there likely will be another Texas death match negotiation when the collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season?

So many MLB players made it through the Little League World Series – Michael Conforto, Todd Frazier, and Gary Sheffield. When did it stop being a game and start being a business?

As naïve is this is, for the owners, did it ever stop being a business and looked at as a game? A beautiful game.

Its pace allows fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, friends and relatives to add to the emotional quilt of their relationships while watching America’s pastime. Heck, just sharing a bag of peanuts and a cold beverage can get you a long way.

Here’s a thought, again albeit naïve: Next August, when the LLWS returns, a group of owners and MLBPA executives should sit together in Williamsport, Pa. and watch the 12-year-olds work their magic. If that doesn’t save MLB, maybe nothing will.

“It’s the best of times,” said Belisle. “I feel for the kids not getting to experience that. I feel for the communities that put so much into it – vacations, school, it’s all baseball, doing something together. You make memories on and off the field.

“The boys of summer. That’s real.”


Youth Sports Awaits The Next Phase Towards Return

Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, then Phase 4. That Phase 3 cycle is important for youth sports in the tri-state area and clearance to possibly getting back on the playing field for thousands of youngsters. These are the guidelines of New York state and medical protocols in this new world of dealing with COVID-19.

Richard Mancuso The New York Extra/

Months away from the official start of another academic year and the scholastic sports calendar is up in the air with uncertainty. Officials from the Public Schools Athletic League, (PSAL) and Catholic HIgh Schools Athletic Association (CHSAA), are waiting on the sidelines.

Richard Mancuso The New York Extra/

They, along with the scholastic athletes, are awaiting a green light. Similar to the professional sports, set to possibly resume in late July, medical protocols and getting these kids back on the field are playing with caution.

The guidelines that pertain to youth sports are no different with distancing, sanitizing, and all the procedures to prevent a further spread of the Coronavirus.

Phase 3, that has commenced on Long Island. Little Leagues and youth leagues are on the field and taking precaution. The game is different with those medical protocols.  PSAL and CHSAA football players have been utilizing virtual training and some have been holding informal workouts at city parks.

In the Bronx, home of more than seven organized Little league teams, officials of organizations are anticipating that date of Phase 3. That is a day that has been anticipated and will permit the resumption of operations.

Christina and Rene Aponte, President and VP of the Castle Hill Little League, are itching to resume operations for their kids and parents. The Coronavirus pandemic caused the league to shut down operations for a league that has had a successful run with youth since 1956. 

“We’re In a process of creating a COVID plan with Little League International,” Rene said.     

A tentative date of resumption is July 7th, but the problem could be no further spread of COVID-19.  New York City, last to open with different criteria for youth sports, as several counties and other cities have started tournaments.  

“We are in limbo,” Rene said. “We have a majority of kids and parents that want to play. We’re following the guidelines.”

The recommendations from Little League International and health organizations are implementing a COVID starting plan and safety procedures for the kids. Castle Hill, also maintains their spacious facility with registration for boys and girls starting at pee-wee to the age of 18.

They were set to go in March. It hit hard. No annual parade in the community to initiate a new season. No schedule of games. The equipment was put away. Kids and parents went home. 

The gates were locked at one of the better playing fields in the Bronx and New York City. 

As Rene said, “It hit us to the point, we were all set to go. Like a bucket of coal thrown on you.”

NYC Parks Department officials,  with directives,  cancelled all permits to use the field and others around the borough. Yet, as this pandemic continues there is a continued scene of pickup softball games and baseball being played on fields in city parks. 

There are many obstacles before a potential resumption, perhaps not as complicated as Major League Baseball, but a challenge. The field requires constant maintenance and the Aponte family has been doing their part. 

And sponsors, a major part of a Little League organization, need to be secured and return to the fold.  Political support has always been there, but a pandemic can change a reality of the situation when it comes to assisting with funding. 

But it is basically the volunteers who have been there and using proper safety protocols with sanitizing and distancing. 

“Volunteers, kids,  coaches maintaining the field,” Rene said. “landscaping. we do it ourselves. We grab a rake or hose. We have a very good strong core of volunteers.”

In the end, it is that safety of the kids. Castle Hill Little League officials are meeting every Tuesday evening and devising a proper plan when they get the go-ahead for Phase 3.

That is the hope so kids can play the game they love. All the other Little League organizations that comprise District 22 are also following guidelines. The district received a mandate to shut down all operations when the pandemic hit from Little League International. 

“Keep in mind the priority, as the safety of the kids only thinking about the kids and the parents,” Rene says. “Playing  baseball wasn’t a priority.  This was an obstacle,  but the health of our kids and families has always been a priority.”

When they resume there will be social distancing, constant sanitizing of equipment, a limited number of parents and friends per child. 

Rene said,  “Baseball will always be around.” And soon, perhaps in two weeks, Castle Hill Little League and others will play the game they love again.

Comment: Mancuso  Twitter@Ring786