My Corner, Your Corner: At the West Pittston Pool by day, Little League field at night

June 25th, 2015 12:40 pm

My Corner, Your Corner

Tony Callaio

Well, I knew it was going to happen.

After a horrible winter, Fourth of July is rapidly approaching us and we find ourselves in the midst of bazaars, barbeques and fireworks tents dotting Greater Pittston.

We all perceive summer differently at different ages. When I was a child, summer seemed like half the year, whereas today, it flies by and, before I know it, cold and snow are upon us.

As a child, I played baseball at the West Pittston Little League. It was great! I was lucky to grow up in a town where we had a community pool and Little League next to each other. During the day and some evenings when I wasn’t playing ball, I spent time at the pool which was open from 1 to 9 p.m. back then.

The ball games started with the farm teams, or minor league teams, playing at 5:30 p.m. and the major league teams played under the lights beginning at 7:30 p.m. with a cut-off time of 9:30 p.m.

West Pittston Little League was one of the only towns in the area with a lighted field, so it was a very unique experience.

It saddens me to see most Little League fields empty and dark during the months of July and August. There are all-star games and district playoffs going on but, for the most part, these fields are not being used in the heart of summer.

Back in the day, opening day was held at the end of the Memorial Day parade. Little Leaguers would walk in the parade (as they do now) on Memorial Day and finish at the field. Usually, some dignitary would throw out the first pitch signifying the beginning of the season.

We played a 20-game schedule comprising of six teams. If memory serves me correctly, the teams and colors were Hall’s Nursery (yellow), West Side Bank (blue), Pagnotti Coal (black), LaBarre Stationary (green), Felice Buick (red) and Moose Lodge (maroon).

Many good men who mentored us. Many of them had boys who played the game and others just loved the game. Men like Elwood Hines, Dutch Gaugher, Noffie Noto, Harry Black, Doc Jumper, Jimmy Manganiello, Lou DeGenaro, Tony Gadomski, Fred Marianacci, Ralph Orgie, Bob Seeley, Warren Dale, Tommy Ciampi, Bo McDonnell, Louie Vullo, Tom McDonnell and many more I know I’m missing. These were the men who molded our young lives.

Each team fielded 15 players; that’s 90 boys playing in the league. And there were that many playing in the minor league. Can you imagine 180 lads playing baseball in one town? It was a sign of the times when we were able to field that many players.

We played during all of June and July and most of August with an all-star break over the Fourth of July, following the major league schedule. That’s what I miss when I see these fields dark.

Baseball is a fantastic sport. After all, it is called the Great American Pastime. Of all the things I miss as a child, it’s playing baseball. I loved covering centerfield, stealing bases and tossing runners out. I wasn’t a contact hitter as much as I was a power batter, so I had my fair share of strikeouts.

At the age of 12, my last year on Little League, I was selected to play on the all-star team and, with Bobby Simonson on the mound, we lost a heart-breaker to Back Mountain, 1-0. Bobby threw a two-hitter and back Mountain’s Steve Skammer tossed a one-hitter. The only run came off a homerun that barely made it over the fence.

I’ll never forget the feeling of standing in the outfield (I was moved to left field for all-star games) and as I looked around, there had to be six and seven deep lining the field fence. The stands were packed and it was the largest crowd I ever played before. It was a strange feeling to see that many people watch us play.

I recently heard someone’s opinion that those running baseball in Williamsport dictate the Little League schedule and it’s corporate greed allowing this to happen. “ESPN pays a lot of money to broadcast the Little League World Series and that’s why the schedule is the way it is,” this unnamed person said.

I’m not sure what young boys and girls do during the dog days of summer, but for me, I was exactly where I wanted to be - hanging out at the West Pittston pool by day and playing ball at night.

Quote of the week

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” – Bob Feller, American baseball player.

Thought of the week

“Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps parents off the streets.” – Yogi Berra, American baseball player/coach.

Bumper sticker

“Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra

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