Cedar Grove Baseball has linked up with two of the nation’s leading youth baseball organizations this year, an innovation that league organizers hope will boost their player development and enrollment in the coming years.
The new affiliations with the Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken programs will give Cedar Grove access to higher-quality safety and training sessions and open up new lanes of competition with the potential to compete in regional and national tournaments.
The league is currently enrolling players from Dorchester and Mattapan – with hopes of increasing their base of players by 10 percent this year. The league plays on city and state ball fields in Neponset, Cedar Grove, and Lower Mills. The season begins in mid-April and parents are encouraged to sign up their children – as young as age 4 – by the end of this month.
“We’re certainly going to enhance our outreach and we hope more and more young people realize that there are opportunities to play baseball here in Dorchester,” said Cedar Grove Baseball president Charlie Maneikis. “Part of the board’s decision is that we now have a brand awareness with Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken that can help with that.”
Aside from new uniforms that will include new identities with the affiliate leagues, Maneikis says that parents and players will see a difference right away in the pre-season preparations. There will be training sessions held at the Marina Bay Sports Complex, an indoor facility that Cedar Grove used on three occasions last year to help prepare players and coaches. This year, Maneikis said, there will be seven workout and practice sessions held at Marina Bay.
“Over the next few years, one additional tangible change that will become present in our offerings as a result of our new affiliation will be more specialized skill building clinics,” said Maneikis. “By leveraging the terrific videos that are now available to us and by being connected to teams and resources throughout Eastern Mass, we will be able to create very focused, creative, and fun skill-building clinics. We did survey our parents this year during the registration process, and as a result, we know that parents are very much interested in these potential offerings.”
Another important off-season development is a planned makeover for the Dorchester Park ball field that serves the youngest Cedar Grove players in the clinic divisions. The city of Boston — using a grant from a private foundation — plans to spend $35,000 on a “mini-facelift” of the Dot Bowl next month. The funding comes through the Boston Parks and Recreation, courtesy of the Highland Foundation and the Boston Red Sox.
“The kids are gonna love it!” said Maneikis. “Renovations will create an actual look and feel of a small diamond with new clay and actual base paths.”
Meanwhile, Maneikis said, the Cedar Grove league itself will spend another $5,000 this season on seeding and treating the grass at the ball fields they use. That’s on top of $5,000 spent on the same treatment last year. “The idea of the lawn chemical and re-seeding program is to enhance the good work that’s already being done by the guys and gals from the city and the DCR. It should mean even earlier greening and thicker grass.”
The historic snowfall this winter is likely to mean a later return to the fields for pre-season practices, said Maneikis. “We don’t expect to be out until mid April,” he said, which is why the indoor sessions have been increased this year. “We want to get everyone out there in advance, just to feel better about themselves, to stretch out and get into baseball shape.”
Maneikis said that the 56 coaches who are currently signed on to assist to lead teams are key to the league’s success. “I want to thank the commitment we have from our coaches – they give everything they have and they all have the very best interest of children in mind as they approach working towards this season,” he said. “We have seen some growth in the last year and we saw that even last year without the affiliation.”
Also new for the 2015 season, the league has created a new Senior Babe Ruth group for ages 16-18. that runs from early June to late July.
“Now that we are affiliated with Babe Ruth, the one or two teams we are able to create, will now have a ready-made league to enter and participate in,” said Maneikis.
Parents can register their children or teens ages 4-18 online at cedargrovebaseball.com. Financial aid is available for families who need it, thanks to sponsors, including Trinity Financial.