By ANTHONY CUSTODE Jr. Special to the Gazette
Niagara Gazette — Summer is still in full swing, but Hyde Park Babe Ruth Baseball is already thinking ahead to the fall, announcing that it has begun registrations for its second-annual Fall League.
Jeff Cafarella, the league’s vice president, says that the idea of baseball in the fall was a spur of the moment decision last season but they plan to build on the idea for years to come.
“Last year, nobody wanted to stop playing so we threw the idea out there and got a big response. We put it together last minute and ran with it,” Cafarella said. “We hope to expand to this year by having registrations sooner, rather than later.”
The purpose of the fall league, officials say, is to provide a relaxed, instructional environment that helps prepare kids for the next level of competition.
“The Fall League helps kids develop their skills at all levels,” Cafarella said. “Some players need additional practice or training and the Fall League gives those players more opportunity to develop them. Someone whose skill set that might not be as high as the ‘all-star’ player they had on their regular season team might become discouraged and stop playing baseball. The Fall League caters more to those players in hoping to develop the skills for those players to play at a higher level the following season.”
Hyde Park is the only league that offers the opportunity to play baseball in the fall and there are no boundaries for children who meet the age requirements to play. Typically, in the summer, a child is restricted to play in a league based on where the child resides.
“Players are also playing with kids throughout the city who belong to other local leagues. The Fall League gives them the opportunity to create new friendships that they may not have had the opportunity to do without the Fall League,” Cafarella said. “Coaches and parents from other leagues come and play in the Fall League, so it is a great networking opportunity for the leagues to unite and come together for the sake of all the kids.”
Extending the baseball season to the fall is just one of many ideas Hyde Park Babe Ruth Baseball’s new Board of Governors has brainstormed to revive the league.
“The new board wanted to start the season off on the right foot,” Cafarella said.” We wanted to let everyone know that this new board is eager to take this league back to the level and respectability it once had, so we started a new tradition at Hyde Park.”
The new tradition Cafarella hopes to attain for the league includes a highly competitive level but with less stress on winning. He hopes the Fall League will help achieve that goal.
“We don’t want to stress on winning and we don’t intend to make it look like all we care about is winning,” Cafarella said. “But we’re trying to get back to the same level where the competition level is high, as well as the sportsmanship.”
The league has also been coordinating new events that involve both parents and players in an attempt to unify the league and help it grow.
“We also wanted to get the parents more involved, so this year we had a mandatory fundraiser that all players were responsible to participate in,” Cafarella said. “We were finally able to upgrade much needed equipment, improvements to the park and better playing jerseys for the kids. We also had our first-annual ‘Fun Day’ which consisted of team and individual pictures followed by the baseball Olympics. It was three events; fastest runner, farthest hit ball and throwing accuracy.
“The following week, we had our opening ceremonies which included a parade for all the teams. This was the first time in three years the city allowed us to have our parade and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work from our new president Erik Sootheran and first time Board Member Eric Archie.”The Fall League runs from August until mid-October. Registrations for children ages 7-12 are currently being held at the Hyde Park baseball concession stand Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every Sunday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. More information can be found on the league's website, www.hydeparkbaseball.com.