Five years ago, Mark Feinberg was looking at available baseball playing facilities in downtown Manhattan Ð a choice between a mud field or concrete playing ground - and not liking what he saw. ÒThe city wasnÕt motivated to get those fields in shape,Ó recalls Feinberg, who played competitive baseball in high school and college, and became motivated to find something better for his own young son.
Something better turned out to be the Babe Ruth League, a longtime, amateur baseball program headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey, that had recently added a Bambino division for children 12 and under. Since Babe Ruth Baseball didnÕt exist in Manhattan, Feinberg chartered a franchise, secured a playing field in Central Park and organized the boroughÕs first league with 20 kids. Five years later, the league - now called the Cal Ripken Division of the Manhattan Babe Ruth League -has a roster of 120 kids between the ages of 5-12, and differs from traditional Little League in several ways.
ÒOur approach is to give the kids instruction, instruction, and instruction, until theyÕre nine years old and ready to burst into a game situationÓ - unlike other baseball programs where kids play competitively at an early age, notes Feinberg. And while most youth baseball programs rely on volunteer coaches, ManhattanÕs Cal Ripken League employs professional coaches such as Neil Jeter, former Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays player.
ÒThese guys know what theyÕre doing,Ó says Feinberg, adding that while professional coaching might be unheard of in neighboring suburbs, it is a fact of life in Manhattan, where field time is a hot commodity. ÒWhen you have a limited amount of time, you want to get maximum value of the time you do have on the field. Professionals make a huge difference.Ó
Employing former pro players also seems to keeps negative parental interference to a minimum. ÒOur job is to keep the parents in check so they do not interfere with the coaches,Ó explains Feinberg. ÒIÕve heard horror stories with fathers getting into fights on the field. Fortunately, we donÕt have any of that.Ó
The Manhattan Cal Ripken Division season begins April 14 and runs through June. For further information about the league, call 1-888-343-4272. -