SARATOGA SPRINGS/ WILTON — Two of Saratoga’s youth baseball leagues are back in full force, with opening day festivities on May 4.
Saratoga Wilton Youth Baseball (SWYB), Saratoga’s oldest and largest youth baseball league is eager to kick off their largest opening day in recent years, with 50 teams and 500 players. The league is primarily recreational, with the exception of their travel team.
“It's not about who wins or loses, it's all about having fun, and learning the fundamentals of the game and hopefully growing a love for the game of baseball," said Joe Rigabar, President of the SWYB.
The driving force behind keeping such a large league up and running are the efforts of their volunteers. Roughly 100 parents volunteer to coach, work the field and operate concession stands throughout the season.
"It's a lot of work, but we do it cause we really enjoy it. We have a great board, and a great group of volunteers,” said Rigabar. “We do it because we love it and because we love the game and we all think it's important to give back and we've built something really special.”
SWYB will host their opening day festivities at the Eastside Recreation Field beginning at 10 am.
This event certainly could not proceed without the community’s efforts.
“All the support we get from the community, from local businesses, and charities in terms of sponsorships, that really goes a long way in helping us field the program,” said Rigabar.
The weekend of baseball is not limited to the Eastside field. Just on the other side of town, the Saratoga Springs Little League (SSLL) will be hosting their opening day event.
"We have over 30 teams and over 300 families; we don't say, kids, we believe in families," said Derrick Legall, SSLL president. “We create an atmosphere where families can come and enjoy their little league's memories and baseball. We create memories at Saratoga Springs Little League."
Legall is entering his 19th year as president of the league. While this year’s turnout is expected to be a large one, Legall has noticed a slight decline in participation, which Legall attributes to kid’s interest in other spring sports such as lacrosse.
"Yes, it's been a decline, but it' because of other activities. We have to find a way to be creative to keep kids engaged," said Legall.
Efforts to engage kids include having the coaches show new instructional videos to their practices and incorporating more active training drills. SSLL is adamant on incorporating every child with an interest in baseball.
“I tell our uniform coordinator to order extra uniforms because I don't believe in turning kids away. I also believe in giving scholarships when available, and we have scholarship recipients. We’re not gonna turn any kid away. All kids are welcome," said Legall.
Saturday, May 4 at the Westside Recreation field, kids will get a free drink and hot dog for the day, and enjoy festivities starting at 10 a.m.
Both leagues demonstrate a vested interest in cultivating a community for aspiring young athletes.
“Saratoga Springs Little League - If there is one thing, I want you to know about us, we create memories. Lasting memories for kids and their families…Letting them know that they're having fun, and this is somewhere they can come and enjoy and be safe, and just have fun,” said Legall.
“I think, more than anything, the kids have a lot of fun,” said Rigabar. “There's nothing better than seeing 500 kids running around playing baseball on a sunny Saturday afternoon."