SCHENECTADY — Youth baseball in the city is coming back together.
The Schenectady Little League and Schenectady Cal Ripken organizations announced last week that the two groups are merging their rec league programs, beginning this fall, in a continued effort to rebuild the city’s youth baseball infrastructure.
It’s the culmination of an effort that’s been in the making for the better part of a year.
“We started talking about this last winter,” said Ryan Bouck, who will serve as co-president of the merged league alongside Cassie Dillon. “By the time that we got everything settled and worked through, it was too late to try and get the spring season together — it would’ve just been logistically tough to do.”
Teams from the two leagues did scrimmage with each other during the spring season, and they’ll unite under one banner for fall baseball.
That banner will be one with Little League affiliation, something that was important, Bouck said, giving the city’s long-held connection with Little League. The league will operate out of the Oregon Avenue and Michigan Avenue fields, with the Michigan Avenue field — home of the 1954 Little League World Series championship team — currently undergoing extensive upgrades.
“We’re trying to preserve the history over at Michigan Ave.,” Bouck said. “Because of that, and because of the nostalgia around this area, the people that are still around that saw those people in those [Little League] World Series, everyone remembers that. We try to teach our kids about that, so that they know about the history of baseball in Schenectady. We’re trying to bring that back together, and we felt that under the Little League name, it would be better for us to move forward with that.”
Schenectady Cal Ripken, which is also affiliated with the Schenectady Blue Jays travel team, formed in the fall of 2019 out of a desire to allow 11- and 12-year-olds to play under more competitive rules that allowed for an easy transition to the Babe Ruth level once players turned 13.
With Little League now adapting to several of those rules, including longer basepaths and a greater distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, bringing the merged league together under the Little League flag made perfect sense, according to Bouck, who served in leadership positions with Schenectady Cal Ripken and the Blue Jays.
“We broke off because there were some kids that were at a higher level, and we didn’t have those [longer] basepaths,” Bouck said. “Now Little League has gone to that, so it just made sense to go back to Little League, especially with the nostalgia and the history of Little League in the area.”
When the merged league begins play in the fall, it will be double the size of either existing league — about 250 players — with a goal of making the game affordable and accessible to any young players in the city.
“We will never turn any kid away in Schenectady — or any kid, anywhere — to play the game of baseball,” Bouck said. “We firmly believe that baseball is the starting point for any sport. . . . We’ll also pick kids up. We want kids to play. If people don’t have rides, we just want to make it easier for the people of Schenectady, because I know sometimes it’s tough for them to get their kids to the field. We’re really focused in on that to try and bring the numbers back to Schenectady, regardless of talent.”
The new league will continue to be affiliated with the Blue Jays travel organization, and serve as a feeder to the Babe Ruth level and, eventually, the Schenectady High School team.
“We don’t want to divide in Schenectady,” Bouck said. “We want our high school teams to be the top in the area. . . . It would be nice for Schenectady sports in general, from Little League all the way to high school, to be that powerhouse again.”
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