The man who single-handedly brought cricket into Schenectady schools is finally getting recognition for his work.
He started a high school cricket club, taught the school district’s physical education teachers how to play and got a grant to pay for cricket equipment at every school in the district.
Now, Steven Weisse has been named a Patron of Youth Cricket by the United States Youth Cricket Association.
“I love the strategy of cricket,” he said. “This is not to denigrate baseball — I love baseball — but I see baseball like checkers and cricket like chess.”
In baseball, he said, “they’re just trying to get a hit. In cricket, you have to learn how to play each ball. You’re trying to play shots — it’s sort of like golf, with putts and so on.”
Of course, it’s much more complicated than that. Weisse spent 10 minutes explaining how to handle just one scenario, in which the hitter misses the ball.
He’s spent years researching the game, so much so that he argues that he knows it better than players who absorbed the rules as children.
His interest was piqued when he learned that Americans played cricket for 100 years before replacing it with baseball.
“It’s an American sport, and we’ve lost touch with that,” he said. “It was the first ball-bat sport. It was the No. 1 ball-bat sport up until the Civil War.”
But gradually, Americans gave it up.
“My contention is that it suffered from the snobbiness of the British,” he said. “No, seriously, they wouldn’t let Americans play in their clubs. I really think American sensibility was, ‘Well, fine, you don’t want us to play your game, we’ll make up our own game.’ ”
He wants to bring it back with the next generation.
“I love the game of cricket and want to see it gain the prominence it once held in this country,” he said. “Youth cricket is the way to make that happen.”
And it has a significant advantage over baseball with young players.
“One of the things that’s cool about cricket is you don’t even have to hit the ball to score runs,” he said. “The batsman can go for a run as soon as the ball goes into the field.”
With young players who have difficulty hitting and catching, the game becomes one of quickness, and runners race to their positions, hoping to get there before the other team retrieves the ball.
Weisse said physical education teachers like cricket because it emphasizes communication.
“It’s a cooperative game. You bat as a pair. You have to communicate with your partner if it’s safe to run,” he said.
Unfortunately, his high school club is having a hard time — but not due to a lack of players. The trouble is that the other local teens’ team, in Albany, lost its coach and folded, and other high school clubs didn’t want to travel. So this spring, the Schenectady team had no one to play.
For now, Weisse has organized a series of Saturday games this summer to give teens a chance to play. He’s mixed his teens with adults from Tri-City Cricket — he’s president of that club.
They play “friendly” games on Saturdays and then reorganize into adult-only teams for league games on Sundays.
“We like to integrate the high school kids with adults,” he said. “It brings up their level of play and takes the pressure off.”
His hope is that they will join the adult team when they grow up. Until then, he’s trying to find them opponents.
“There’s not a lot of youth teams in the area,” he said. “The team is limping along.”