Tag Archives: Westport Little League

Congratulations To Westport Little League All-Stars!

A gutsy 1-0, 1-hit performance over Rhode Island gave Westport its 1st New England Little League championship tonight.

It was tense. It was exceptionally well-played. It was a classic.

Next stop: Williamsport!

David Lloyd’s Subtle Shout-Out To Westport Little League

As host of ESPN’s 1-3 p.m. weekday Sportscenter, David Lloyd can’t play favorites.

But that didn’t stop the Staples grad from adding this little bit of support on his Twitter profile to the Westport Little League team that vies for the New England championship starting Friday:

David Lloyd

And where does the tournament take place?

Bristol, Connecticut — ESPN’s back yard.

David is on vacation this week. No word on whether he took the time off to cheer on his favorite hometown team.

Westport Boys Win Little League State Title; Girls To Follow On Tuesday?

Westport’s 12-year-old Little League all-stars are one step closer to Williamsport.

The boys captured their town’s 1st-ever state championship today, in Southington. Westport beat Coginchaug 9-1, sweeping the best-of-3 series. Yesterday, they won 8-2.

Westport Little LeagueThe winners represent Connecticut at the New England regional tournament. It’s set for Bristol — home of ESPN — starting this Friday (August 2).

The winner of that tournament heads to the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, Westport’s 10-11 softball girls play in the state tournament, Tuesday in Newington. They need 1 more victory in 2 games to add a 2nd state championship to the Westport Little League trophy case.

Good luck to both teams!

Jack Cody’s Little League Challenge

Westport sponsors the 3rd largest Little League program in the world.

But until this year, it did not have a Challenger Division.

Starting soon, though, boys and girls ages 5-18 with physical or mental challenges will play baseball, just like hundreds of other Westport kids.

And they’ll do so thanks in large part to the work of a Staples High School junior.

Jack Cody stands near the Staples baseball diamond.

Jack Cody stands near the Staples baseball diamond.

Jack Cody is a former Little Leaguer and Staples baseball athlete. For the past 3 years he’s helped coach a Little League team. He’s also a member of Kool To Be Kind, the high school mentorship and anti-bullying program.

When Jack realized that Westport Little League did not provide opportunities for children with disabilities, he vowed to make it happen.

He researched Challenger programs in towns like Fairfield and Ridgefield. He got help from Norwalk; emailed Westport Little League officials; enlisted his mother Beth as commissioner, and made a formal proposal to the board. They loved Jack’s idea — and his enthusiasm.

Then he began recruiting players and “buddies.” They assist Challenger players on the field, but encourage them to bat and make plays themselves whenever possible.

Little League ChallengerTeams will be organized by ability, rather than age. Games are a couple of innings long. Everyone bats each inning.

There is no fee. Each player receives a personalized jersey and cap. The season begins April 27 and ends June 22. Games are on weekends, in Westport and nearby towns.

“It’s really important that every kid gets a chance to play baseball,” Jack says of his favorite sport. “I’m just really glad I can help make this possible.”

PS: Baseball is not all Jack does well. He and fellow Stapleite Warren Schorr have been selected to represent the school this summer, at a summit of young leaders in Singapore.

(Parents can register players for the Challenger program by clicking here. For more information, or to volunteer as a buddy, email westportball@aol.com.)

Bill Hodgkinson’s Marauders

In May 1960, the  Saturday Evening Post published this photo:

Marauders at  Gault Field

It shows the Marauders — “a hustling club” — at the Gault Little League Field on Imperial Avenue. In the background — across the river — was Bedford Junior High School (now Saugatuck El). A short distance away — on the left — is the original Staples High School. It was torn down 7 years later.

The magazine identified the Marauders as (from left) Johnny Bissell, Bruce Corrigan, Geoff Hodgkinson, manager Bill Hodgkinson, Don Carroll, Art Hunter, Larry Hilliard, Brian Hitt, Carl Swanson and Tommy McCarthy.

Bill Hodgkinson died last month. He was 97.

bill Hodgkinson

bill Hodgkinson

A freelance graphic designer and 30-year Westport resident, he created labels, logos, packaging, ads and pamphlets for Sinclair Oil, GE, Union Carbide, Pepperidge Farm, Arnold Bakery and RC Bigelow. His Seagram’s VO whiskey label is still used today.

Just as importantly — to him, and many others — Bill managed the Marauders from 1955 to 1970. He was known as a fair, hard-working coach. He also served actively in many positions on the Westport Little League board.

What makes this “06880”-worthy — besides remembering a very talented and civic-minded Westporter — is that for the past few years, his grandson John Videler has carried on the family tradition of coaching the Marauders.

And Bill’s great-grandson, Case Videler, is on the team.

The next time someone says that, with all these newcomers and changes, Westport is no longer the small town it once was — well, just take ’em out to Bill’s old ballgame.

Westport’s In The Little League World Series. Sort Of.

As Westporters follow Fairfield’s run through the Little League World Series, we can take some pride — a teeny, tiny bit — in reflected glory.

ESPN host Chris McKendry lives in Westport. She’s married to Eduardo Andrade, president of the Westport Library (and a Westport Little League coach). Their son Drew — a Little Leaguer — is entering 2nd grade.

Fairfield’s squad was trained by Westport resident Mike Porzio, owner of The Clubhouse in Fairfield. His son Michael is also a Little Leaguer (rising 3rd grader).

Okay, Westport’s not really in Williamsport. But some of us are close.

Judge Not…

The other night, an alert “06880” reader writes, his son played in a Little League game.

A wild pitch brushed him back. Then he was hit hard on his left side, under the arm.

He went down in severe pain, and could hardly breathe. The reader’s wife — a medical professional, normally dismissive of her kid’s injuries — was very concerned, because the injury was so close to internal organs.

She took him to the Stillson Road walk-in clinic in Fairfield, because they take X-rays. The clinic immediately sent the boy — by EMS, with Fairfield Fire Department escort — to Bridgeport Hospital‘s pediatric emergency room. Fortunately, he checked out fine.

Both the walk-in clinic and hospital experiences, the reader says, were “phenomenal.”

But that’s not why he emailed me.

The pitcher was the opposing coach’s son. When the injured boy’s father got home, he had plenty of voicemails. His son’s coach, teammates — even parents on the other team, and random others — were calling to see how the boy was, and if the family needed anything.

But one person had not called: the opponents’ coach.

However, the father adds: “I was too quick to judge.”

Youth sports teach many life lessons.

The next day, he sent an email. He wrote of his own concern for the young player’s well-being, and said how sorry and distraught his own son felt for hitting the boy with a pitch.

“We, of course, had focused only on our own kid, and how we felt,” the “06880” reader writes.

“We never thought how the other child and coach/father might be feeling.”

That, he continues, is why “youth sports are so great. They’re about life lessons, and perspectives, and redemption, and making quick judgments.”

And about life lessons — for kids and parents.

Play ball!

Why Westport Little Leaguers Used To Wear Headphones During Games

Following Friday’s “06880” story about the Westport Little League’s 60th anniversary, this photo made the email rounds of a certain group of former players:

It shows history from 1960:  the Marauders beat the Hornets, the 1st-ever American League victory in Westport’s World Series.

Carl Swanson is in the middle of the raucous celebration — his single won the game.

When the daughter of one of those former Little Leaguers — she’s a very good high school softball player — saw it, she asked, “Back then, why did you guys wear headphones?”

Patiently, her father explained that — unlike today, when protective headgear resembles football helmets, complete with cage — those were, in fact, batting helmets.

Her response:  “Lame.”

Imagine what she’d think if she saw a transistor radio.

This 60th Anniversary Is Actually “Diamond”

Sixty years ago this spring, Westport Little League was born.

Four teams — the Bombers, Hornets, Jets and Rockets — competed in that inaugural season.

And if you think I had to do scholarly research to unearth that fact, think again.  I talked to half a dozen men who played Westport Little League in 1951.  All are now in their 70s — but all reeled off those 4 teams’ names as if they were back at Green’s Farms Elementary School field, hitting and fielding and yelling “heybatterbatter!” and having the time of their lives.

In an era of Little League baseball and softball, Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax, PAL football and cheerleading, WSA soccer, youth lacrosse, rowing clubs, and just about every other sport for kids except Australian Rules football, it’s easy to forget the impact of that initial Little League season.

It was the 1st youth sports league of any kind in Westport.

“We had real uniforms, umpires, coaches, base paths and a pitcher’s mound,” AJ “Red” Izzo recalls.  “Before that, we just played in the back yard.”

Playing “real” baseball made quite an impact.  Six decades later the players remember not just the team names, but plenty of other ridiculous random relevant details.

“Jeff Strauss hit the 1st home run,” Jack Mitchell notes.

“The coaches all lived on Old Hill Road, for some reason” Bud Frey adds.  He reels off 3 of their names:  Henry Dietrich, Harrison Schevelson, Bob Getty.

Bud was just 10 years old that 1st season.  He played on the Rockets, and got 3 hits in one game.  They were his only hits all year, though — and they came in the final game of the season.

Bud spent the next 2 years with the Jets.  “I never knew why I was traded,” he says.

A team from the early years: the 1956 Bombers. Front row (from left): Doug Jacobs, Bob Entigar, Buddy Matthews, Jerry Williams, Bill Deegan, David Ohanian, Bob Rogers. Middle row: Jim Stewart, Jerry Melillo, Dick Sutphen, Bob Rowlands, Ted See, Carl Gajdosik, George Karfiol. Rear: Bill Deegan, Jack Rogers, Vern Matthews. (Photo courtesy of Bill Deegan)

Geoff Lavaty was new to Westport — and baseball.  “I’d come from the Bronx,” he says.  “I played stickball.  I wasn’t sure if I could adapt.”

He did.  Like nearly every other 10-, 11- or 12-year-old boy in town, he leaped at the chance to play real baseball, with real (parent) coaches.

Little League drew boys from the 3 elementary schools —  Bedford, Green’s Farms and Saugatuck — together for the 1st time.  It created lifelong friendships, and lasting memories.  It set Jack Mitchell and Red Izzo on a path to become baseball captains at Staples, 6 years later.

Tomorrow, Westport Little League — in 2011 a much larger organization with majors, minors, other divisions, girls and its very own fields — hosts championship games.  No special events will mark the 60th anniversary.

But league officials are quietly proud to have outlasted other cultural icons, including Davy Crockett caps, hula hoops, the frug, disco, 8-tracks and Pong.

“Parents who played Westport Little League now watch their own kids — and grandchildren — play,” says baseball official Carl McNair.

“They still love to talk about the championship game, the home runs, the victories and beat-downs.

“But whatever the subject, they all have smiles on their faces.   The overall wins and losses fade into the distant past, while the joy of playing America’s pastime is timeless.”

Play ball!

Remembering Tony Marino

Tony Marino was one of the good guys.

Tony Marino

The Westport artist and proud World War II veteran died Sunday at home.  His obituary reads like something out of a bygone era — sort of, what happens when the Greatest Generation goes to Westport — but it is an important reminder of how tightly, for several decades, the arts and sports and volunteerism were woven together in town.

Tony — a Pennsylvania native — joined the Army at 18.  He served in the Pacific Theater from 1942 to ’46, surviving combat in New Guinea and the Philippines, followed by service in occupied Japan.

Thanks to the GI Bill, he attended the Ad Art Institute in Pittsburgh.  Tony then worked as a men’s fashion illustrator.  He and his wife moved to Westport in 1959, and raised 3 children here.

He worked for more than 20 years as a New York department store fashion illustrator.  In his free time he pained landscapes and Westport scenery — with a distinct, award-winning eye.

He spent many years as a Little League coach.  Other hobbies included fishing, good food and wine, and veteran’s affairs.  Every year, Tony marched proudly in the Memorial Day parade.  His uniform still fit perfectly.

When I bought my condo, my realtor — Gale Zucker — gave me a gift:  a watercolor of my new home, painted by Tony.  He made the house come alive — by emphasizing the fir trees around it I have come to love.

From time to time, I change what’s on my walls.  That painting always stays.  It’s a graceful reminder of Westport — and the artistic legacy created by men like Tony Marino.

(Tony Marino’s memorial service takes place todaty (Sat., Jan. 29) at 1 p.m. at Zion Hill United Methodist Church in Wilton.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, Westport, CT 06880.)