riWith spring training in full swing (pun intended), baseball coaches everywhere are busy preparing for the upcoming season. Like last year, two Island organizations will be running youth baseball leagues this spring: the Roosevelt Island Youth Program and the Roosevelt Island Center for Community Development. Both are registering kids now.
RI Youth Program
The Roosevelt Island Youth Program (RIYP) runs a free baseball program in conjunction with the Beacon program. Assistant Beacon Director Andrey Chicagov says his team has constructed a two-pronged approach for their program this year. In addition to offering a tee-ball program for younger players, ages 5 to 7, the program will also support and train two competitive travel teams for ages 8 to 10 and 11 to 12.
“Coaches will come up through the instruction of coach Tommy for the younger players, and will be a combination of coaching and community volunteers,” says Chicagov.
The older travel teams will be more structured, with each player required to commit to one practice per week and all games. They will compete against off-Island teams and in a tournament. Chicagov stresses that girls are encouraged to try out.Opening day for the RIYP baseball league is April 1.
Babe Ruth League
The Babe Ruth League, which works in cooperation with the Roosevelt Island Center for Community Development (RICCD), is managed by Island residents Dan Sadlier and Kim Massey. Registration costs $55 per child, but full scholarships are available.
This year, the league will offer three age groups: the youngest, 5- and 6-year-olds, will play tee-ball; 7- to 9-year-olds will play coach-pitched games; and the oldest group, 10- to 13-year- olds, will be player-pitched. In addition to regular practice times, Sunday baseball clinics will be provided.
According to Sadlier, more than 40 kids are registered so far and 15 parents have volunteered to fill in positions of coaches, assistant coaches, and parent coordinators. Head coaches will include Scot Bobo, John Massey, and others.
The league will commence in April with a 10-game season. There will also be an all-star game halfway through the season. A kickoff celebration is tentatively planned for April 1, and will include a hit-pitch-run contest and scrimmages. Opening weekend is set for April 8.
“I heard through the grapevine that, throughout the years – especially when Scot Bobo was central to this stuff – they did an opening day parade and marched down Main Street to their first game,” says Sadlier. The Babe Ruth League has decided to bring back this Island tradition with its own opening-day parade.
Sadlier says the league has applied for several grants, including an MLB grant for local little leagues to support field maintenance and uniforms.
Room for Growth
According to Chicagov, the RIYP baseball teams have both on- and off-Island participants, as well as off-Island rivals and competitions (for the travel teams). The RICCD league, however, currently has only Island players registered and does not have a travel team.
Sadlier says he’s interested in increasing the league’s critical mass to keep it on the Island while attracting kids from surrounding neighborhoods. “I would love to figure out what is happening in the surrounding western Queens neighborhoods with baseball, or lack thereof, because I want there to remain an on-Island league that is highly accessible with low season fees, but is still competitive enough that kids don’t have to play against themselves over and over again.”
The RICCD league, Sadlier and Massey agree, needs to at least double and most likely triple its numbers to have a real competitive edge. They also envision a summer travel team option for the older, more serious players.
Massey, whose son has been playing off-Island baseball in competitive leagues, adds that “it is important for our kids, as they get into middle school and are older, to have the right training. A lot of them [in past years] hadn’t received proper training to even get on other teams. So if we have better programming it can assist them with that, too.”
For more information or to sign up contact: