Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Cambridge youth baseball players. (Photo: Anthony D. Galluccio)

Before Covid, many folks said Cambridge baseball was on the decline. Competition with newer sports or the pace of the game were offered as explanations.

Many of us had faith that local Little League for 5- to 12-year-olds and Babe Ruth league baseball for 13- to 16-year-olds was still a precious local childhood experience. As children choose different schools, public and private local youth sports offer families a diverse community experience without hitting the highways.

Covid helped reinforce the importance of being outdoors, fitness and making friends, and Cambridge baseball adjusted as some leagues ran safer clinics rather than play to keep the leagues alive and summer ball went on with masks. Nonetheless some children missed the typical baseball experience.

This summer, as the city quieted down, Cambridge baseball engaged more kids than I can remember from any past season.

Leagues were run at every level with an all-volunteer effort. A flexible “sand lot” league was run through a North Cambridge-led initiative in partnership with West Little League. Sixty boys and girls ages 7 through 12 showed up over the six-week program. East Little League entered a 10-and-under travel team, inviting children from across the city to play in a seven-week Bay State tournament. Another travel team played in a league for 11- to 12-year-olds designed to transition players to a bigger diamond. These two travel teams allowed about 40 more players to participate. At the teen level, Cambridge Babe Ruth entered two teams in the Lou Tompkins 15-and-under league, and both made the finals. Only three communities out of more than 30 fielded two teams in that 20-game tournament, and those two teams allowed another 35 kids to participate.

All in all, about 150 children were able to play baseball this summer at very affordable rates or for free. This fall, Central Little League is taking the lead as it begins an all-star tournament and tryouts for next season.

Cambridge baseball is not using Covid numbers as a baseline. Our goal is to maintain and grow pre-Covid numbers. We know what children and their families get out of local youth baseball and believe it’s an essential option for their experience in Cambridge. As many begin to question the expense and travel time of American Athletic Union programs, we remain poised to deliver a competitive, fun and community-building experience for young people. Thanks to the all-volunteer effort by so many, Cambridge Recreation and sponsors, we stand ready to teach your children baseball and many other positive life lessons.