The American League Summer League officially got underway Wednesday evening at the field.
Started by Will and Tracy Mattei, the league will feature four teams--three from Fort Lee and one from Englewood Cliffs. Each team has 15 players from the peewees to the majors. The season will be comprised of 14 games with no playoffs, and people are excited.
"Fort Lee has a wonderful field that can be utilized all year, and we started last year with a U8 travel team, the Fall Ball Clinic, so this is a natural progression," said Tracy Mattei. "We thought of doing another travel team, but that limits the number of children that we can accommodate, and it is very intense. With a summer ball league, we have been able to offer it to all kids in the American League. We offered all other leagues in our district to bring their own team, and Englewood Cliffs is participating."
Opening day was a success and a fitting kickoff for the new league, as the new teams got to meet each other and play ball again. Will Mattei, who is a coach in the league, wants to focus more on engendering an understanding of the game than an emphasis on winning.
"Baseball is a difficult sport to learn and master," he said. "It requires fine motor skills, gross motor skills, coordination, good perception and mental focus. The combination takes years, and good fundamentals and an understanding of the game is always important."
The summer league is a great way not only to keep the kids playing baseball, but also getting them some good practice in a community that stresses the importance of youth sports.
"Youth sports goes far beyond the field," said Tracy Mattei. "Philosophically, it teaches the child who to be within a group, what their duties and responsibilities are. It teaches leadership skills and my favorite: it promotes healthy friendships, even among the parents."
The league was started to keep baseball going, which is something that is important to the kids and the community. Will Mattei knows that baseball is a game that can teach life lessons off the field as well as on.
"The game of baseball teaches life lessons all by itself," he said. "You have to get up and take a risk by swinging the bat, run your fastest to get to where you want to go and rely on others to help you out. You have to learn to win with honor and lose with courage."