For the past 11 years, every player that has come through the Whitestown Little League has had a baseball experience to remember. From the meticulously manicured playing surface at Robert Hooper Field, to the concession stand that rivals some local restaurants, to the league website packed with stats, updates and updates to the updates, to the 14 banners that line the perimeter of the outfield fence. Ahh, the banners.
Since 2002, Whitestown Little League has been guided by a President, who to say takes the job seriously, would be the understatement of the season. Our latest Adirondack Bank 12th Man award winner, Whitestown Little League President, Bob Kelly, has run New York District X’s perennial powerhouse with an unparalleled passion that has helped hoist those 14 championship banners and more, much more.
“Credit the players and the coaches,” our reluctant 12th Man told MHTS, adding “All those championship banners belong to them, not me.”
Each season there are about 90 players, between the ages of 9 and 12, that make up the 8 teams in the Little League Division of Whitestown Youth Baseball.
Those 90 or so players, are coached by 24 dedicated guys, who go above and beyond to help make the Whitestown experience a memorable one.
During the season Whitestown’s little league boss can be found at Hooper Field, about 4 hours a day, six or seven days a week.
If he’s not dragging, lining or mowing the field, you may find him shaping the mulch around the landscaped press box. When is the last time you saw landscaping at a little league field? Didn’t think so.
“Besides the championships, the improvements we’ve made to the field and facilities are definitely what I’m most proud of, “Kelly said. “I have been very lucky to have a fantastic group of people that have no problem working really hard to make the place nicer each and every year that I’ve been here.”
Since 2002, the park has seen the addition of a batting cage, heat, air conditioning and other amenities to the press box, also the addition of an all clay infield in 2007 (which was a biggie).
“None of the success in Whitestown Little League would be possible without the commitment of the Whitestown Youth Association (WYA),” according to Kelly. We are very fortunate to have the WYA behind us every step of the way. They rarely say no to anything we ask for, whether it be uniforms, equipment, whatever the kids need.”
Whitestown Little League also has about 30 sponsors that come through each and every season, to keep the league moving forward.
Kids in Whitestown LL get an undershirt to wear under their jersey each season and the graduating 12 year olds receive an embroidered duffel bag to keep. “Every year we put a different slogan on the undershirts and the kids look forward to seeing what it is, Kelly said proudly. This year, it was a tribute to our service men and women. One year it said, “got banners?,”and another year it said” it only takes one.” It’s always fun to see how the kids react, Kelly added with a chuckle.”
Adding to the experience and a tradition that Kelly has helped to ingrain to baseball in Whitestown, are the “Gourmet Specials” at the concession on Saturdays. “Every Saturday one team is responsible for bringing a homemade dish to the park for sale in the concession stand. We get everything from Chicken Riggies to Utica Greens to Philly Cheeseteaks and Fries.” How popular have the Saturday specials become? “We’ve gotten to the point that we get calls for takeout orders!’
So, once the inner league play is complete, Whitestown’s “all-star” teams get down to business at the “A” level (11-12 year olds), the “B” level (11 year old level) and the “C” level (9-10 year olds).
Little League Baseball sanctions all-star tournament in the “A” and “C” divisions, while local leagues host tournaments at the “B” level, giving a majority of players in Whitestown a chance to wear the coveted all-star uniform and cap.
“Again, its our coaches that expect more from our players year in and year out. Winning is really a habit here,” Kelly explained, with a grin of the league’s winning tradition. Whitestown has brought home a remarkable 14 banners from all-star competitions since Kelly took over the program in 2002.
Our newest 12th Man won’t take credit for the successes of his league in all-star play, he defers instead to the coaches, players and families who make sacrifices every summer to keep the winning tradition going, adding “Every year we have families and coaches cancelling vacations because their team is still alive in a tournament. That’s real dedication and that’s what makes us different.”
Whitestown’s long list of successes include a deep run in the 2006 “A” Tournament, which ended with a Section II State Banner and an appearance at the NYS Final Four, where the team lost to eventual Little League World Series participant, Staten Island.
Five of the players from that team and two from the 2005 “A” all-stars (including Kelly’s son Robert) went on to win the 2011, New York State, American Legion Championship with Whitestown Post 1113 and finished 2nd in that season’s Northeast Regional.
While it would be easy to focus solely on the all-star tournament success that the league has enjoyed under his watch, Kelly instead gets the biggest satisfaction from the experiences of each player in the Whitestown League itself.
“That’s what its all about, the kids who play from when they’re 9 or 10 years old, getting to their 12 year old season and leaving here with great memories from playing baseball and hopefully continuing their baseball at the next level. That’s what I will always remember most,” said Kelly.
While the longtime President has no plans of leaving his beloved position, our 12th Man does want to offer any potential successor a little advice, to wit: “Running the league isn’t as hard as it looks, just keep the train on the tracks, keep great coaches and volunteers in place and keep the kids first and foremost and you are all set.”
So, with NY District X Little League all-star season just around the corner and another solid season of baseball fun just wrapping up over in Whitestown, My Hometown Sports and Adirondack Bank would like to congratulate Bob Kelly as the newest 12th Man Award recipient.
Thanks Bob, for all of your efforts, a great majority of your time and the level of dedication that you have unselfishly donated to the kids who have played ball in Whitestown in the last 11 years.
In answer to your age old question Bob, yes, the players in Whitestown Little League can dig it.