Several weeks ago, as the Astros and Dodgers played an extraordinary sequence of games for this year’s World Series, a Little League team on Long Island, the New York Selects, was engaged in its own championship games. Formed just more than a year ago, the Selects was created from the local Great Neck Little League.
After several players on the team began challenging players from neighboring towns across Nassau, Suffolk and Queens Counties, a larger team was quickly formed. This autumn, the New York Selects, not unlike the Astros, triumphed as an underdog to win the league championship with a stunning 14-0 undefeated season.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Jessica Shapiro, one of the parents whose son, Charlie, is a player in the Selects.
Putting together the team was no easy feat. According to Shapiro, “travel leagues are extremely competitive, with teams made up of the top players in the region. The New York Selects have often relied upon players who are at least a year younger than the league average, but the team has remained consistently competitive.”
Another challenge was getting the players to commit to the success of the team.
“When you assemble the best players from the local Little League, all of them are accustomed to playing premium positions and batting high in the lineup. But you cannot have six short stops and eight players batting in the first three spots in the lineup,” said Shapiro. “Players must accept their roles on the team and put the overarching benefit of the team ahead of individual concerns—an incredibly valuable life lesson.”
The costs of being on the team had to be considered as well.
“When the Great Neck Little League made the decision to sponsor a travel program, it stuck with volunteer coaches,” she said. “Relying upon local dads helps keep the costs down, ensuring that no one is priced out of participation, since some travel programs charge many thousands of dollars each season. Moreover, volunteer coaches lend their time and effort because of their passion for the game and commitment to the players. But scheduling practices and games around jobs and family commitments is often difficult.”
Most of the teammates on the New York Selects have played baseball in Little League for a few years, and they had developed an enormous passion for the sport. Joining a new team wasn’t an obligatory task for them; it was another opportunity to play ball and to have fun. While the idea of playing in a more competitive league did make them nervous, their confidence has only grown with each season.
It is wonderful to see more and more kids on Long Island pick up sports. Sports offers one of the best character-building and team-bonding experiences, and the health benefits of staying active are undeniable.
Having played baseball when I was much younger, I have so much admiration for younger kids who can succeed in such a brief period of time and still see the sport as something they enjoy doing for fun, especially with the league championship at stake. We hope that the New York Selects continue to experience success in the future.