Newberry — A Little League legacy
A piece of my life passed away before my eyes when on Saturday morning, Jan. 15, 2022, I read an article in the Sun-Gazette headlined, “Newberry drops its charter with LL.”
That headline brought on a flood of surprising emotion, many questions, and an unexpected trip down memory lane.
I will say, it took awhile for me to process that news, or more appropriately, grieve that news.
I can only hope the current league officials vetted all possible options, while seeking the help of local resources, before deciding upon such a monumental change.
But rather than lament this loss and analyze the reasons why this happened, I decided to focus on the positive things about this proud and storied start-up Little League in the birthplace of Little League baseball.
First, there was the on-field success of the Newberry Little League from the 1960s and on into the early 1990s, which included numerous district championships, many trips into the sectionals, at least two state championships that I am personally aware, an Eastern regional championship and a regional runner-up, and finally a trip to Little League nirvana itself, the Little League World Series.
Sure, Newberry had its share of good players, but there are good players everywhere.
That kind of consistency comes from the leadership of the many adults in the community who volunteered their time to manage, mentor and parent those hungry-for-success kids.
Names like Heaps, Rizzo, Kramer, Goshinski, Confair, Sharrow, Brown, Hunter, Vassallo, Hamilton, Prowant, Sechler, Vaughn and Cipriani to name a few of those parents who labored out of love to make the Little League experience both fun and successful.
My apologies to those not named because there were many more during those early days, and many more followed, but unfortunately, they are not known to this now-old ballplayer and article writer.
Even more importantly though, was what Newberry Little League brought to Williamsport, in general, but more specifically, what it brought to the small communities of not only Newberry, but DuBoistown, Nisbet and Linden.
The Newberry Little League brought community involvement, identity and pride to this Norman Rockwell-esque Central Pennsylvania setting.
Newberry the community and Newberry the Little League were synonymous and, interchangeable. Newberry was the classic example of what Little League Baseball was, and still is, supposed to be about.
No matter how skilled the player, the emphasis was on team accomplishment over individual heroics.
And concepts like commitment, responsibility, play hard but fair, and never give up, were principles ingrained into the players by the managers.
Life lessons were plentiful at Newberry Little League.
For the kids, the Newberry Little League contribution was even more significant.
Playing Little League in Newberry was a birthright. If you were a kid growing up in Newberry, and you had any interest in baseball and/or softball, spring tryouts couldn’t come soon enough. The excitement of getting the manager’s call telling you that you made the team was second-to-none.
Then, it was pure euphoria when after the first practice, you came home with that old recycled wool uniform and the ball cap with the big “N” for Newberry on the front. From April through July, and sometimes into August, Newberry kids were almost continually at the fields on Arch and Mosser streets. If you lived within walking or biking distance, it wasn’t unusual to hang out at the field for a good part of the day, run home for supper, change into your uniform, and go back and play a scheduled game in the evening. Being a ballplayer in the Newberry Little League was special.
There was a tradition to uphold. You had a responsibility to live up to the standard set by those who came before, perhaps decades ago. Yes, all of that sounds good.
But was it unique to just Newberry?
However, it was, for the most part true. When you were a kid playing baseball, having fun, (and winning) were what mattered the most. And the kids knew that playing ball at Newberry could be great fun.
In fact, for many it was a lot more than fun, whether they realized it or not.
These are just a few of the thoughts that ran through my mind after reading the Saturday article.
I am sure there will be many more.
The memories are lasting and so good. Looking back, we were very lucky to have grown up in Newberry and played in the Newberry Little League.
In finishing, let me say, it is not the unfortunate end of this Little League that I will remember.
Rather, it is the rich 75-year history of a league that gave so much to the kids and parents of a small Central Pennsylvania community.
Newberry was Little League baseball at its finest.
Newberry Little League’s legacy will be one of making dreams come true for kids who just wanted to play some baseball.
Thank you, Newberry, and God bless Little League Baseball!
Don Cohick is a member of the 1969 Newberry Little League All-Star team that earned its way into the Little League World Series that year.