He hasn’t swung a bat or chased down a fly ball in years, but Charlie Fitzpatrick is as much a part of Little League baseball in the area as the kids who play.
Fitzpatrick, 67, is in his 26th year as the District 12 administrator, overseeing every aspect of the game for leagues stretching from St. Johnsville, Schoharie and Middleburgh to the west, north to Gloversville and through Schenectady County.
“You name it, I’ve probably done it,” said Fitzpatrick, who lives in Duanesburg. “I’m like the referee, the schedule maker, the one who assigns umpires for tournaments.”
Fitzpatrick’s involvement in Little League covers 41 years, beginning when he managed his sons’ teams.
“I started in 1975 with Rotterdam Little League,” he said. “I had four boys, and I managed their teams. That went through 1985.”
Once his sons were too old to play, Fitzpatrick kept involved in the sport by serving as league president and assistant district administrator.
That led to his becoming the overseer for District 12 beginning in 1990. It took just a little arm twisting.
“It goes back to Lindy Buonome, who was a great mentor for me,” Fitzpatrick said, referring to one of the legendary names in Schenectady Little League. “Lindy was the DA back then, and he kind of took me under his wing. He said, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ I said, ‘OK.’ ”
More than two decades later, Fitzpatrick is preparing for another round of tournaments that could result in state, regional or national titles for Capital Region players.
“I’ve got a system for putting the schedules together, but there’s always a team that decides it doesn’t want to play, and another that wants to get in at the last minute,” he said.
“For someone to do what he does for 41 years, as a volunteer, is just phenomenal,” said John Callahan, currently the secretary of Gloversville Little League. “It’s a thankless job, but he’s a powerhouse. He’s been the authority for a long time.”
Fitzpatrick is also in charge of making sure umpires are assigned for every district game.
“We want to make sure the right teams are at the right location for their games, and that the umpires are there to make sure the games get played.” said Fitzgerald.
Come tournament time, Fitzpatrick wants to make sure a set of administrative eyes are on each game.
“I can’t possibly get to every game, so I rely on my ADAs,” he said, referring to his handful of lieutenants.
“There are certain rules that coaches like to break. The kids are all insured, but the coaches aren’t, so they’re not allowed to warm up the pitchers.
“Every year, we have to remind them of that.”
Former Gloversville LL President Mike Hauser was one of Fitzpatrick’s assistants.
“Charlie is the guy who’s like the big brother/father figure for us,” said Hauser. “He’s the one we can get advice from. If there’s any dispute, he’s the one who handles it.”
“Most of my contact with Charlie now is through all-star games,” said Callahan. “He’s seen everything, all the rule and equipment changes.”
During his association with the sport, Fitzpatrick has seen some of the district teams, led by outstanding players, go deep into regional tournaments. He’s also seen participation numbers drop.
“Now, I have a total of 18 teams. There used to be 23,” Fitzpatrick said. “Everybody argues the fact that Little League has been hurt by soccer and other sports.
“But what also hurts is that the population is down. People aren’t having as many kids as they used to.”
When he weighs the perks — getting to attend the Little League World Series finals — against the drawbacks — the in-district travel — Fitzpatrick is still doing something he still enjoys.
“I’ve got three years left in this term,” Fitzpatrick said. “My boys had a good time playing. I enjoy watching the kids go on and play high school and college ball.
“The funniest thing for me, which I get a kick out of, is now I have kids on all-star teams whose fathers I coached when they played. There might even be a grandchild in there some place.”