The snow may be swirling outside our windows, but I am excited
to report that another baseball season is already upon us. The 2013 North
Reading Little League season began the weekend of January 12 with the first of
our training clinics. Once again, we’re a step ahead of our “hometown nine” as
Red Sox pitchers and catchers won’t report to Fort Meyers for another few
Yet, before looking to the upcoming season, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to share some of the highlights of the past year—on the field, around the field, and in our community.
A number of renovations and improvements were made to the home of NRLL, the Benevento Field Complex. These included: the painting and purchase of new equipment for our snack shack; the painting and sign of appreciation placed on the press box/bathrooms; and the repair and expansion of our batting cages. The biggest change, however, is one you’ll notice at every game on Field 1. Thanks to the generosity of the Great American Tavern and CJM Builders, we have a new electronic scoreboard located behind the first base dugout that will be visible to everyone at the complex. You’ll never hear another parent utter the phrase: “Does anyone know what the score is?”
On the big diamond, NRLL Senior League saw a change that has reinvigorated the program. North Reading merged its league with the Wilmington Senior League and formed Junior (ages 13 & 14) and Senior (ages 15 & 16) divisions, resulting in more age-appropriate competition that allowed a number of our ballplayers to flourish. After playing an interlocking schedule, each town held separate playoffs to produced town champions, who then faced each other in the first “City Series.” I am proud to report that North Reading won both of these competitions. This merger was well received by both communities, and we plan to potentially invite other towns to participate.
Also, the entire town enjoyed the miraculous ride provided by Coach Frank Carey and his NRHS varsity squad as they brought home the Division III State Championship. While Coach Carey and his staff deserve 99 & 44/100 percent of the credit for this accomplishment, NRLL can take pride in knowing that this incredible ride began on the fields of the Benevento Complex.
Our best off-the-field highlight in 2012 was the creation of our two new scholarships awarded to members of the town’s graduating senior class. Jonathan Gravallese was selected as the inaugural winner of the Phil Dardeno President’s Award, and Jessie Valenti was the inaugural winner of the Harold B. Reynolds Memorial Scholarship. These scholarships came as part of our expanded outreach efforts that this year included: free registration gifts to a number of other youth sports in town when they held fundraising activities: our ongoing campaign with the Jimmy Fund; hosting the annual Veteran’s Day luncheon at the Senior Center; monetary donations to a number of charitable events in town; and sponsoring an annual food drive for the benefit of our town food pantry.
One of my personal favorites was having the NRLL march in the annual Memorial Day parade for the first time in decades. Seeing a dozen plus kids race to carry the NRLL banner or to throw out foam rubber baseballs or bubble gum to the adoring crowd is a memory many of us will enjoy for years to come. This year, we are working toward hosting an NRLL All-Star event for our Major, Minor, and Farm divisions to take place immediately after the parade. Stay tuned for further details.
We have a strong relationship with a wide array of businesses here in the Greater North Reading area. Our program and outreach would not be possible without our fundraising activities, which are facilitated through the ongoing generosity of these business partners. This season, we will be implementing several programs to drive business to our partners, turning the entire process into a “win-win situation” for all involved.
We also work closely with the RAMS Athletic Complex located at 23 Concord Street here in town. The NRLL encourages all our baseball families to take advantage of the many fine programs and professional instruction they offer at their state of the art facility. Baseball is a game of repetition and practice, and we are fortunate to have such a fine facility at our doorstep. I would like to personally thank Jeff Mejia and Jim Demetri for everything they have done and continue to do for NRLL.
Turning our eyes toward 2013, there are a number of initiatives already in place. One involves longtime baseball devotee Marco Vittozzi, who is spearheading the Eastern Massachusetts Independent Baseball League here in town for boys in the 7th and 8th grades. While independent from NRLL, this league is strongly supported by our Board of Director as it will allow boys additional practice and playing time to prepare them to move on to the high school level. They must register for the NRLL Senior League and the Eastern Mass. League imultaneously, allowing for maximum participation and complete coordination between the two programs. We are thrilled to report our early registration numbers have exceeded the most optimistic forecasts.
The Board of Directors is continually looking for ways to increase competition and overall participation in our various leagues. We spent a great deal of time this off-season to create these strategies and have made several changes to our league structure. There will be numerous other initiatives implemented once the season begins. Please visit our website at www.nrll.org for further information and to register for the 2013 season.
In closing, allow me a big thank you to my Board of Directors for their endless energy, devotion to our youth, and never-ending dedication to the great game of baseball. I look forward to seeing everyone down at the ball fields….once the snow stops flying!!!
North Reading Little League