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Ridge little league opener draws players across the bridge

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Bring them your tired, your poor, your huddled teammates yearning to play free.

Bay Ridge’s 68th Precinct Youth Council baseball league drew folks all the way from bucolic Staten Island to its opening day parade and games on April 11, because leagues on The Rock can be too hard on their players, the Bay Ridge league’s president said.

“Unlike some of the other leagues, we put an emphasis on fair play and teaching good sportsmanship rather than winning,” said league president Chris Tropiano.

One parent attested to the league’s kid-glove approach.

“My son used to pitch and when he was having a bad day they’d keep him in and try to pull him out of his slump,” said Ridgite Michael Lennon, whose younger son, Michael, threw a double play in his first game on Saturday.

Conversely, Forgotten Borough leagues are baseball crucibles — in some cases playing pre-pubescent 9-year-olds alongside 12-year-olds to harden the younger players, according to the Staten Island Advance.

“That to me is too big of a spread,” said Charley Eichler, who has been working with the Bay Ridge league for 50 years.

And the Island’s lust for victory is pervasive. During its early years, the Staten Island Yankees drafted players who were too good for the league and never moved them up, according to a reporter covering the team.

“The big issue with that is that the [Staten Island] Yankees — for the longest time — drafted kids from big college programs who were ready at that level, but then as years went on, they didn’t make it up higher,” said inveterate Yankees reporter Jim Waggoner of the Staten Island Advance.

Lennon is happy to have kids in a program where they can learn the game without pressure, he said.

“The guys that run it do a good job,” he said. “If [kids] made a mistake, they’d give him a pat on the shoulder and say ‘It’s no big deal.’ ”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Posted 12:00 am, April 17, 2015
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