An interesting post-script to my Little League, Big Business story in Sunday’s paper came via a phone call from Alex DelVecchio, a 39-year-old father of five whose passion for youth baseball compelled him to share a story of saving Little League Baseball in one community.
DelVecchio played on Ingomar’s Little League team that reached the state playoffs in 1984, falling short of the Little League World Series in Williamsport. Six years later, he was a pitcher when North Allegheny won the WPIAL baseball championship.
“It’s an issue near and dear to my heart,” said DelVecchio, who was a walk-on at Villanova. “I had great Little League, high school and college experiences but my best memories were in Little League.”
When Ingomar/Franklin Park gave up its Little League charter to switch to Bronco rules baseball – which offers different diamond dimensions and allows runners to take leads and steal bases – DelVecchio acted by helping to from North Allegheny Little League Baseball, for which he is president.
The association has no formal ties to the North Allegheny school district – its team colors are red, white and blue instead of black and gold – other than it allows everyone within district boundaries to play. What DelVecchio says the association emphasizes is the Little League experience, which he referred to as the “Boy Scouts of Baseball.”
“People look at baseball so technically now and forget Little League Baseball and its message,” DelVecchio said. “We really promoted sportsmanship. We say the Little League pledge before every game. There’s no focus on the elite athlete. We believe there’s more to baseball than fielding a ground ball.”
In its first year, North Allegheny’s Little League had “a great turnout,” DelVecchio said, with 52 players this summer. They played interleague games with District 4 members Collier and Quaker Valley, and he believes that because of its sheer size North Allegheny is in “prime position” to someday advance to the Little League World Series.
DelVecchio also feels that playing by Little League rules benefits 11- and 12-year-olds, especially the smaller ones who often reach base on bloop singles over the infield that would be outs on Bronco fields.
“We feel Little League prepares the kids better than Bronco rules,” DelVecchio said. “Kids don’t know how to hold runners at 11. They don’t know about the subtleties of it. It becomes a chaotic game. Bronco is kids trying to play by rules that aren’t appropriate for them. …
“Parents are desperate and competitive for their kids to make those (travel) teams. They think their kids need to play at those advanced dimensions. Baseball at 11 and 12 is about pitching, hitting and catching the ball.”