Year after year, Newtown’s youth baseball players and their families make runs upstate, and out of state, to tangle with their New England-based opponents in regional tournaments. This summer, some of the local sluggers can leave their travel bags in the closets and enjoy short, familiar drives down the road for games and practices as they play deep into the summer months.
Two Newtown Babe Ruth baseball teams will host New England Regional tournaments in late July and early August. The Newtown Wolf Pack 13-year-old squad will host teams from Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut at High Meadow Field on the campus of Fairfield Hills Saturday, July 26, through Thursday, July 31.
The Newtown Renegades, an 11-year-old team, will host the Cal Ripken regional at Glander Field August 2–7 (August 8 if necessary), as opponents from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut come to town.
“It is absolutely amazing,” Andy Via, president of Newtown Babe Ruth, and a five-year coach in the program, said while driving one of his three sons up to Meriden for a state tournament game on Monday afternoon. “If you’re a fan of baseball, if you’re a fan of youth sports — this is where the action is the next two weeks.”
Via has three sons, all in the Babe Ruth program. None of them are on the teams hosting tournaments in Newtown this week or next, but Via has been busy working hard to help ensure things run smoothly for those who do have children stepping into the batter’s box to represent Newtown.
Ken Roche, a coach for the Wolf Pack, and Adam Taylor, a coach for the Renegades, are both former Babe Ruth presidents and current division directors who approached Via with the idea of hosting tournaments this year. Given their experience, Via thought it was a no-brainer to allow their teams to host tournaments.
Those coaches, along with 13-year-old team Manager Bruce Terry and 11-year-old team Manager Jim Robinson, and Via, are among the many volunteers who have been working hard to make hosting out-of-town and state teams possible.
In addition, coaches wives, including Jen Taylor and Missy Robinson, and parents Liz and Bill Lucas, and Steve and Susan Kirby, have been instrumental in the efforts, Via said. There’s been fundraising, creating and printing programs, organizing dinners for visiting families, and more.
“When you host, you get to stay at home, so that’s a plus,” said Via, noting that the catch is almost $7,000 has to be raised to put on a tournament (that’s $14,000 for the two here in town). “It’s work no matter how you slice it.”
“We’re paid in smiles and gratitude,” said Via, adding that he does his part to help allow the children to have fun. “It’s all about the kids.”
But it wouldn’t be at all possible without the money that goes to a variety of things, including umpires, the town for field grooming, baseballs and trophies, programs, as well as information packets for visiting families, and catered dinners/luncheons.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” said Via, noting that the approval for the teams to host tournaments was made in the fall. “It’s been a nine-month planning process.”
Via, being that he is a school teacher and is off for the summer, finds time to run around to drop off checks, pick up trophies — doing the little things to help out the coaches who work during the day before heading to the practice fields with their teams.
None of this would be possible without Frank Rocca, former Babe Ruth president who serves as Connecticut Babe Ruth commissioner, Via notes.
“I’m thrilled. I can’t wait,” Rocca said. “Everybody loves to come to Newtown.”
Last year, Newtown hosted the 15 year-old-Babe Ruth regionals and those involved set the bar high for a great experience for teams coming to town this summer. Via said it’s his goal to help make this as great a visit as possible for the many families coming to Newtown.
Rocca notes that a benefit of hosting tournaments is that it generates revenue for the area hotels and restaurants.
The 13-year-old tourney kick-off will be held at High Meadow Field at 5 pm on Friday, July 25, with a barbeque and Skills Competition.
Fans are asked to come out to the field to support the teams throughout the tourney. Newtown’s first game is scheduled for Saturday, July 26, at 1 pm, when the Wolf Pack takes on New Hampshire. Games will take place at 10 am, and 1, 4, and 7 pm both Saturday and Sunday. Games will also take place at 4 and 7 pm on Monday and Tuesday, July 28 and 29; 6 pm on Wednesday, July 30; 4 pm on Thursday, July 31;and 7 pm on Thursday if necessary.
The winning team will represent New England in the Babe Ruth World Series in Glenn Allen, Va., in August.
Following an August 1 Skills Competition (3 pm at Glander Field), the 11-year-old Cal Ripken tourney features games at 10 am, and 12:30, 3, and 5:30 pm on both Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3. Games will take place Monday and Tuesday, August 4 and 5, at 3 and 5 pm; Wednesday, August 6, at 5:30 pm; and Thursday, August 7, at 5 pm (also Friday, August 8, at 5 pm if necessary).
Visit newtownbaseball.com for more information.