Little League looks forward to first pitch

Little League looks forward to first pitch

The new North Providence Little League, which recently unveiled its logo, will hold its Opening Day ceremony on Saturday, April 13, at Romano Field.
New North Providence L.L. kicks off season on April 13

NORTH PROVIDENCE – You’d think this offseason would have been extra stressful for longtime Little League president Sal Piccirillo, especially with his North Providence West Little League absorbing the smaller North Providence East organization, which didn’t renew its charter after last season, to form the North Providence Little League.

But it hasn’t been.

As he has done for the past six seasons as the NPWLL’s leader, Piccirillo began to prepare for the 2019 season as soon as last year’s fall ball season ended, starting with the paperwork he completes each October and continuing with last month’s tryouts for the Major and Minor Division baseball teams.

“I’m so used to it,” Piccirillo said last Friday afternoon. “I have my system. I know I have to do this in October and that in November. Every week, I’m like, ‘OK, I have three things I have to take care of this week,’ so I can get it off my plate.”

Right now, Piccirillo and his board of directors are in the bottom of the eighth inning in their preparations for their historic season, which will see its first pitch on Saturday, April 13, with the league’s Opening Day ceremonies at 9 a.m. at Romano Field and the parade that will kick off the festivities a half hour before then.

Piccirillo talked about the state of affairs of his league last Friday at Romano Field as he was accepting a few registrations from parents and loading a few buckets of practice balls into the shed near the batting cage.

With the popularity of youth baseball dwindling not only regionally, but also nationwide, and more and more children focusing on other springtime recreational activities, including fast-paced sports such as lacrosse, soccer, and flag football, Little Leagues such as West and East have seen a sharp decline in numbers.

Joining forces “was best for both leagues,” added Piccirillo, whose league fielded five fewer teams last season. “I know the numbers were down in both leagues last year and they would have been down again this year. Last year, we were down to five Major Division teams, and we’d probably be down to four if we were by ourselves.”

Not counting the new Junior and Senior Divisions teams that the league will field this season for players ages 13-16, there will be 23 teams in this year’s league: six in the Major Division (for players ages 9-12), seven in the Minor Division (for ages 7-11), four in the Instructional Division, and six in the Tee-Ball league.

Included among the Major Division teams is the NPWLL’s longest tenured sponsor, Christiansen’s Dairy Co., which closed its doors on March 10 after nearly a century in business, but will still field a team this season, noted Piccirillo.

As for the league’s Junior and Senior ballclubs, 27 players will make up two teams that will play neighboring District I teams and possibly some District IV squads.

“We’re at 254 (players) right now,” Piccirillo noted. “Players can still sign up for the Minor, Instructional, and Tee-Ball divisions, and when it’s all said and done with those (late) players who sign up, we’ll probably top off at 270. The highest I ever had at West was 276.”

Unlike past seasons, Piccirillo scheduled registration sessions during the second weekend of January, three weeks earlier than he normally did in the NPWLL, and he held five of them on Saturdays at the town’s library.

“I pushed (registrations) up knowing that this was a new league and we were going to have to redraft the Major and Minor Division teams,” he admitted. “We had our (Major Division) tryouts on Feb. 15 at Ricci (Middle School’s gym), and once we drafted (the 72 players on) those teams, we locked up the rosters – it’s the only league that we keep standings.”

Romano Field will host all the Major Division games. The Minor and Instructional Division games will be split between Romano and the NPELL’s K of C Field, and the Tee-Ball games will take place at the K of C Field.

Most of last year’s NPWLL’s board of directors is also back this season, and two members have changed roles. Chris Cabral is moving from secretary to vice president, and Holly Ryan, who was the head of fundraising, is now the secretary.

Returning to their positions are treasurer Anastasia Wachter, player agent Jim Coughlin, and safety officer Ronnie Paux. Steve Robidoux is also the equipment manager, and Mike Ryan is in charge of field maintenance.

“My board (of directors) is small, but it’s an excellent group,” added Piccirillo. “Whatever I need, they help me with.”

With less than a month to go before his league’s season opener, Piccirillo is happy with how everything currently stands in his league. The Major and Minor Division schedules have already been released, and almost all the work that still needs to be done is outdoors.

“We have to start working on the fields,” he said. “We have to put all the signs up and fix up the bullpens and the batting cage. One of the lights is out in left field and we’re going to need a bucket truck to fix it. We have a lot to do between now and (Opening Day), but we’ll be fine.”

Visit www.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp for more information on the league or to register a player for the Minor, Instructional, and Tee-Ball divisions.