Parents step up to the plate to help Niskayuna host Babe Ruth tournament

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
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Babe Ruth baseball regionals at Blatnick Park in Niskayuna on Wednesday, July 31, 2013.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Babe Ruth baseball regionals at Blatnick Park in Niskayuna on Wednesday, July 31, 2013.

— Late in the game Wednesday afternoon at Niskayuna’s Blatnick Park, South Colonie’s 13-year-old Babe Ruth team was leading New Jersey’s Basking Ridge squad, 3 to 1.

They were playing on the first day of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament for 13-year-olds, a tournament parents from host Niskayuna have been working hard to put on.

“It’s crazy hectic,” Niskayuna parent Michele Ryan recounted before being interrupted by the cheering from the South Colonie win.

“We have such a great group of families,” Ryan continued as the cheering died down, “that it’s just wonderful. Everybody’s working together. It’s just great.”

Wednesday was opening day for the six-day tournament. In all, 10 teams, including local squads North and South Colonie and Niskayuna, are vying for the right to move on to the national Babe Ruth World Series, to be held this year in North Dakota.

The parents have been busy in recent weeks preparing for the teams and families, coordinating hotels and restaurants for the visitors and improving the field.

The field improvements included new fencing and other work, paid for through fundraising. The field also got a new scoreboard, donated by Price Chopper. The town has also helped get the town park in tournament shape.

The improvements were in the works, league president Tom Spataro said, but were moved up because of the regional.

Getting ready to host has meant months of planning, with parents split into groups that could focus on different areas, Spataro said.

With Wednesday’s weather, everything has come together, Spataro said.

“So far, so good,” he said. “As long as the weather stays good, we’re going to be just fine.”

In all, the tournament features 10 teams, each with its own group of family and friends coming along. The Mid-Atlantic region consists of five states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.

Niskayuna parent Ed Funyak has helped make sure the field is in top shape. His son Ben is a shortstop on the team.

“The last few days have been rough, three hard-working days,” the father said, “and now we’re playing fun baseball. That’s what matters.”

The tournament in Niskayuna is one of several hosted in the area at different age levels. North Colonie recently hosted the 10-year-olds’ Cal Ripken regional; Wilton hosted the 12-year-olds’ Cal Ripken regional. Both tournaments are complete.

Clifton Park is hosting the 14-year-olds, with its tournament running Tuesday through Monday at Clifton Common.

The Niskayuna tournament is being held on the same field where flags fly for last year’s 13-to-15-year-old squad that made it all the way to that level’s World Series in Arkansas.

Niskayuna won its spot in this year’s regional for 13-year-olds by virtue of being the host. The team is coached by Chris Bianchi.

Among the Niskayuna players trying to make good on the regional berth is outfielder Chris Ryan, Michele Ryan’s son.

“It’s just amazing; it’s really fun,” said Chris Ryan, 13, an incoming ninth-grader. “Everybody’s having a good time, and it’s going to be really tough competition.”

As far as playing at home, Chris Ryan said, “it means so much just to play with all the family and friends here.”

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