At first we (NPGL Board) thought it was an “old fashioned” idea and, with youth baseball going the way of highly competitive tournaments, we didn’t think there would be too much interest. Teams would rather keep the star pitcher or homerun hitter "fresh” for a game that counts in the league standings. They may want to save them for a tournament that weekend.
The NPGL has been supporting the idea of giving the game back to the kids. Let them play for the fun of it. Let them go out and just play for the love of baseball.
As I said, we didn’t think it would come to fruition. Thankfully, we were wrong. We miscalculated the energy that would carry this “old fashioned” idea forward. Coaches jumped at the idea. We received numerous emails and phone calls from coaches and parents excited about the prospect of an All Star Game.
Now we had to execute this idea … Be careful what you wish for!
We quickly realized it would not be an easy task. The NPGL has grown to more than 250 teams reaching over 50 towns, run solely by volunteers. The 2016 season has proven to be our largest ever, providing summer baseball for almost 4,000 young athletes and 1,200 coaches across New Jersey.
This meant seven (7) age groups and two leagues translating into 12 All Star Games. We reached out to some of the teams that we knew had the facilities to assist us, such as Union, Westfield and Warren. All three hosts played an integral part of making the day special for over 375 athletes and their families.
Each player stood at the first and third base foul lines, as their names were announced they stepped forward and tipped their cap to the cheering crowd. It was truly a moment they will never forget. The smiles could be seen from center field.
“The kids had a blast and all made some new friends from other towns. That was priceless. “
- Brett Fischer, Westfield White 11U Gold
The day was filled with players, coaches and parents from opposing towns cheering for each other. There was no arguing over “life and death” umpire calls, there was no jeering from the crowd … it was youth baseball as it should be. It was baseball seen through the eyes of kids. The kids got back baseball. It was a great day.
“Awesome to see the boys from different towns quickly make new friends and teammates and have fun playing the game they love together!”
- Coach Greg Richel, Ridge 9u Black
Afterward, we received many kind words from coaches and parents for having a wonderful event. In truth, we would like to thank everyone for making it a great day.
Our hosts Union, Westfield and Warren ran a professional event. The coaches, parents and players were supportive of all the kids. The NPGL volunteers worked long hours to get the rosters, locations, and schedules in place. This was truly a collaborative effort.
What made this little idea work? Coaches, parents and players exhibiting the sportsmanship and respect that have been a hallmark of the NPGL since its inception.
I guess the “old fashioned” idea wasn’t so old fashioned after all. Play ball!