Local leagues carry on tradition

  • James Williams (left), Connor Cox (center) and Aidan Barilone (right) meet at the mound with pitcher Alex Blunck, Saturday in Athol.   FOR THE ATHOL DAILY NEWS/CADEY SPENCER

  • Tony Vitello, left, meets with pitcher Alex Blunck on the mound, Saturday in Athol. FOR THE ATHOL DAILY NEWS/CADEY SPENCER

  • Members of the Çhuck Stone Little League All-Star team after its final game at James H. Salevan Field for the 2019 season, Monday in Athol. STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

Staff Writer
Published: 7/5/2019 1:32:05 PM
Modified: 7/5/2019 1:31:51 PM

Most athletes played middle school baseball: some former ball players played at the high school level and very, very few played collegiately.

Then there is the level of baseball that brings about memories for just about everybody with an athletic background.

The level of baseball on the tiny diamonds, with the smell of hot dogs and popcorn in the air.

Branden Engelke-Aiken pitched for the last time at James H. Salevan Field on Monday for the Chuck Stone Little League All-Stars.

“I feel like when you look back playing baseball when you were younger,” Engelke-Aiken said. “You don’t look back at middle school or high school, you look back at Little League. I am going to miss this field. Playing on it. ”

The Chuck Stone Little League, along with the Orange Little League, recently concluded their seasons.

Orange Little league just capped its 60th season with a win by Orange Legion over Dick’ s Auto in the championship game. 

Steve Ringer is the president of Orange Little League. 

“I think overall it was a success,” Ringer said. “One of the goals was to increase the numbers. I think we were able to do that. I am little disappointed we couldn’t get a tournament team together. My biggest thing was getting the kids to like baseball.”

Orange Little League fielded 90 players this season, which was up for from the previous season.

Engelke-Aiken’s team, Rotary, won the Chuck Stone championship in the league’s 68th season. Athol Little League dates back to 1951; it became the Chuck Stone Little League in 1995.

“I’ve always like baseball,” Engelke-Aiken said. “I feel like we did pretty well fielding.”

Morgan Softic played for Lions this season and was a member of the Chuck Stone All-Stars.

“We didn’t do very well during the regular season,” Softic said. “I just like how its a good way to learn because we have good players on the field with us.”

Chris Engelke coached Rotary during the Chuck Stone regular season. Chuck Stone fielded 33 players in the major league and around 100 total. 

“The great thing about the season is I’ve had some of the kids on the team for three or four years,” Engelke said. “I’ve watched their growth from the beginning to now.”

Engelke also coaches the Chuck Stone All-Stars.

“They have played with each other in previous years,” Engelke said. “It’s like watching a real baseball game. They are capable of making all the plays. It’s a lot of fun.”

During the springtime, there are several different choices for youth sports including soccer and dek hockey.

“I think the first thing they go to is different choices,” Ringer said. “Baseball can be a slow sport. I think there are ways you can show kids they can have fun and keep building on that and then then the numbers can grow.”

Tony Vitello is an assistant coach for the Chuck Stone All-Stars, and coaches the Lions during the season.

“Even in Little League,” Vitello said. “When your players are excited to keep playing, that’s what its all about. It keeps you coming back as a coach. Even when they are about to be mercied and its getting dark out. My team struggled but there was a genuine love for baseball.”

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