CHATHAM, NJ - Professional baseball hall of famed Bob Lemon once said, "Baseball was meant for kids, grown-ups just screw it up."
The growing trend of travel baseball leagues has often left kids in the background, as parents move into the spotlight. However, in Chatham and Madison, the parents who run the town's local youth baseball leagues have thrusted the kids into the limelight by organizing the first annual Mayor's Cup.
Madison's Gary Harvett and Chatham's Dana McClintock came up with the concept of having each of the town's championship teams compete for the interleague title last year "to have a fun, yet competitive, event that created a buzz and excitement among the baseball teams."
The idea came to fruition this season, with more games to come.
"Dana and I have been friends for quite some time," Harvett said. "Our kids are the same age and very active and enthusiastic baseball players. We were discussing baseball at a dinner one evening last year. We were both keen to leverage the sporting rivalry between our neighboring towns with the intent of adding more fun and spark into the baseball season."
The excitement reached high authorities during the weeks leading up to the event. All three mayors of the towns were in attendance. Bruce Harris, mayor of Chatham Borough, joined Chatham Township mayor Nicole Hagner for pre-game festivities, while Madison mayor Robert Conley issued post game trophies to all participants.
"We're really excited that the towns got together this year to put this event on," Hagner said. "We think this will be a nice annual event for both neighboring communities. It will give the kids another opportunity to play baseball."
While Chatham swept the two games on Sunday, with Chatham Sandwich Shop beating Madison's LockedIn, 12-8, in the AAA games (9- and 10-year-olds), and Advanta Clean edging Madison Fire Department, 5-2, in the Major Division game (11- and 12-year-olds), Harris thinks the games are more than just winning and losing.
"I'd like to think that they're learning to be good team players and (learning) good sportsmanship," he said. "Those are characters that they need to develop to be successful in their future careers."
The two leagues hope to expand beyond the AAA and Major divisions next year. Regardless of how big the Mayor's Cup becomes, the 2014 games will be played at Madison, with future years alternating between the two sites.