2023 Holiday Mingle Recap!
By Katie Maloney
For baseball lovers everywhere, nothing means the start of Spring more than a game of catch.
By Katie Maloney
For baseball lovers everywhere, nothing means the start of Spring more than a game of catch. But for organizations like the Squirrel Hill Baseball Association and 14th Ward Baseball Association, baseball is an all-year sport.
“Not only do we have spring, summer and fall baseball leagues, but we also have a holiday baseball camp in December, summer baseball camps in June, July and August, and spring training events in March,” said Randy Frankel, Director of the Squirrel Hill Baseball Association.
Frankel began his career with the organization 30 years ago as a parent watching his son, who is now 40 years-old, play baseball in Squirrel Hill. Since then, Frankel has coached several teams and spent the past 29 years directing the organization. He even led Squirrel Hill Baseball to become one of the first community baseball leagues to offer fall baseball.
With girl’s softball and coed baseball programs for children between the ages of 3 – 18, Squirrel Hill Baseball can accommodate just about any age and skill level.
“The greatest benefit is that players get to meet children from all over Western Pennsylvania. They have the opportunity to play baseball with kids from different schools, communities and backgrounds.”
According to Frankel, the league allows kids to develop important social skills.
“Baseball is a team sport where the kids learn how to work together, support one another and build friendships.”
What sets Squirrel Hill Baseball apart from other leagues, according to Frankel, is the training programs they offer.
“During our spring training, we take the kids to three baseball games at the University of Pittsburgh in their state of the art Petersen Sports Complex. The kids go to games first, then after the game, the coaching staff and players come out in their uniforms and work with the kids on baseball fundamentals in small groups.”
According to Frankel, spring training is popular with both players and their parents.
“The kids love it because they get to watch college athletes play and then they get to work with them right afterwards. The parents enjoy it because they get to go to games with their children, then watch the training and pick up ideas on how to work with their sons and daughters on how to improve their skills.”
As the director of Squirrel Hill Baseball, Frankel says that he works to cater to the skill levels of all players by offering another division of Squirrel Hill Baseball called Three Rivers Baseball.
“In Squirrel Hill Baseball leagues, we cater to kids of all skill levels who want to have a good time and want to develop their skills,” said Frankel. “Three Rivers Baseball is a division of Squirrel Hill Baseball where our all-star teams, community baseball all-star teams and Amateur Athletic Union baseball teams can play weekend double header games. It gives kids exposure to playing with higher level teams and helps to develop their skills.”
After 29 years of directing Squirrel Hill Baseball, Frankel says that the most rewarding part of his job is seeing the love of the game be passed down from generation to generation.
“What’s most exciting for me, is seeing the kids my son played with, who are now parents themselves, signing their kids up to play baseball with us.”
Jon Hart, a long-time coach for the 14th Ward Baseball Association, another baseball league in Squirrel Hill, says that community is what sets his league apart from other leagues in the area.
“As a non-profit, community-based organization, 14th Ward focuses on catering to families and kids from local neighborhoods. All of the money we raise goes back into uniforms for the players, baseball equipment, field maintenance and other things that benefit the kids.”
As a non-profit recreational league, Hart says that community volunteers are what help the league grow.
“14th Ward continues to grow and I think that the work that the volunteers put into it and the sense of community in our league is what helps us do that. We were able to expand upon the divisions we had and narrow the age groups because we had enough kids and teams.”
But you don’t necessarily have to be a baseball fanatic to enjoy volunteering, says Hart.
“Some of our best volunteers aren’t necessarily baseball people, but they’re community people,” said Hart. “We have people who love baseball too, off course, but everyone who volunteers with us is doing so because they want to benefit their neighborhood.”
Last year, a volunteer worked with the Pirates to allow one of 14th Ward teams onto the field during the Pirates batting practice.
“The Pirates were very generous to have us there and the players and coaches came over and talked to the kids and it made their day.”
Even parents can get involved with the league.
“There are a lot of different ways for parents to get involved on all different levels. The most basic, especially with the younger kids, is to get on the field with them. Even if you’re not someone who plays baseball or softball you can still be someone who models what to do in terms of behavior.”
Hart says that some of the best role models for baseball can be parents with limited knowledge of the sport.
“You can have someone who knows nothing about baseball but who can still be very useful because they can sit on the bench with the children and teach them sportsmanship and how to work as a team. Those things may not have anything to do with baseball but they have everything to do with the rest of your life.”
Every season concludes with a picnic where players receive awards and celebrate their teams. But the sense of community doesn’t end with the baseball season, according to Hart.
“We are always trying to cultivate the same kind of goodwill for our community that those who volunteer for us offer our league.”
For more information on 14th Ward Baseball, or to register, visit sports.bluesombrero.com/14thwardbaseball.