Sunday, 22 May 2016 09:09

It's been half a lifetime (he's 27) since Chris Meyer strode to an NYO plate with a game on the line. In its final at-bat, his team trailed 7-4, with two outs and runners on first and second. A bandage fluttered from Chris's raw left leg which lost six inches of skin on an earlier slide. The lanky lefthander drove the looping yellow softball deep to left. It clanked the top of the 'green monster' on the Garr Field, missing a game-tying home run by inches. As he raced toward third, Chris did what only an overzealous NYO'er would do. He slid --- again. The bandage entirely gone, he popped up to the cheers of his teammates. But the game would end, 7-6, a moment later on a lazy flyball to left, Chris still on third.

'Welcome NYO Alums,' said the banner at the parking entrance. Allan Gottlieb, who dreamed up the event, said 110 former players --- men and women --- and coaches and more than 100 parents, spouses, significant others and siblings showed up. Present-day NYO ballplayers, many just finishing their games, hung around to watch, too. 'It was a walk through NYO history,' said baseball commissioner Cliff Barshay. '(It was) fantastic to see kids all grown up, and really special to see some of their parents, many mainstays of NYO leadership.'

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Friday, 20 May 2016 16:36

Even when he was 9, people knew Robert Currie was born to lead. Consider this story from his NYO football coach, Chip Traynor: 'The Irish drafted Robert as a first-year player in the 9 and 10 year old Littles program. In almost all cases for the Irish, first-year players are generally defensive linemen or weak-side corners at best. Our intention for Robert was weak-side corner. But Robert had a level of maturity far in advance of a typical 9-year-old NYO player. He had more physical talent than we realized and he quickly worked into a franchise-level running back for the Irish. That has never happened before or since. He was a gifted natural leader (who learned) our Irish principles of hard work, team sacrifice and perseverance. During his time at NYO Robert benefitted from many other coaches, but I want to make clear that Robert himself was responsible for what Robert became. Robert was always a unique young man with a different maturity level. He was the most mentally advanced 9-year-old we have ever coached. He had great parental training and upbringing. If he wishes, he could become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.'

For now, Midshipman Robert Currie of the US Naval Academy will have to settle for something a bit less lofty. Robert, a centerfielder and captain of the Navy baseball team, is known as 'Captain of the captains' in Annapolis. The captains of the 30-plus athletic teams at the Naval Academy have elected Robert their collective 'captain.'  Go to www.navysports.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/051816aac.html# to get the full story.

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Saturday, 14 May 2016 20:43

She really can sit down long enough to enjoy a baseball game. The picture accompanying this story proves that. Paige Fielden, NYO's consummate volunteer, is the 2016 recipient of the Suzanne Caswell Volunteer of the Year award. It's a recognition, according to baseball commissioner Cliff Barshay, that she could win every year. But this is Paige's year.

Her daily visits and long hours in the Dowis building are the stuff of legend. It's not the Opening Day festivities she's organized nor her years spent leading the NYO Auxiliary that qualify her. Rather, it's how she gets things done, according to Jane Wilkins, NYO's executive director and Paige's biggest fan. 'She's changed so much for the better,' Jane says. 'She's an innovator. She picks out talent and brings them along. And she's never intimidated. If she feels strongly about something, she'll win. She's a strong, passionate leader.'

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Saturday, 14 May 2016 16:39

Once, they lined the fences surrounding the Small Ball, Shetland Blue and Shetland Red fields as if to form a protective human ring around their little ones. This day, they gathered tentatively against the backstop of the Miss Jane Wilkins Bronco Field as their now young men (and one woman) moved from the infield toward the pitcher's mound for a group photo.

For 104 NYO 12-year-olds, Saturday was 'graduation day.' Their years of playing through the Majors or Bronco divisions were complete. One-by-one, baseball commissioner Cliff Barshay called their names and they trotted into an arc that ran from third base to a point between second and first. Because so few were present for Opening Day ceremonies, which are geared toward younger players, Cliff wanted them to say farewell to Jane Wilkins, who is retiring after 40 years of NYO service. 'Jane, look around,' Cliff said. 'This is your legacy.'

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Saturday, 14 May 2016 14:10

He bounced from the Bronco Dodgers dugout and retrieved the discarded bat. That he was wearing a Phillies uniform and his team was the next game up mattered not at all to Noah Weiner. He was happy to serve as batboy for the Dodgers, a team for which two Sutton Middle School 6th-grade classmates played.

From the time he began playing NYO baseball as a four-year-old, Noah Weiner has put team and others first, according to those who know him, those who have coached him. 'His little head is never down,' says NYO executive director Jane Wilkins. Noah is the 2016 recipient of the Kyle Burnatt award, which NYO gives to one 12-year-old at the end of each baseball season. He is the 13th in a distinguished line of youngsters who have epitomized the very best of the 'NYO experience.' 

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Friday, 13 May 2016 18:54

It's hard to say no to Allan Gottlieb, especially at NYO.  Even though his children aged-out of its baseball, fastpitch softball and basketball programs, Allan remains an NYO fixture. He still manages 9, 10 and 11-year-olds on the Austin Armstrong Field of Dreams. Each batter goes to the plate with one simple instruction: 'Swing!' Allan abhors walks. He expects his players to get their money's worth, each and every at-bat. His kids have fun, and they usually win.

Allan also started NYO's girl's basketball program. So, it's no surprise he's in the middle of NYO's first-ever alumni softball tournament, scheduled Saturday afternoon, May 21, on the Jane Wilkins and Garr Fields. Ten teams have signed up and their rosters are a who's-who of long-and-not-so-long-ago stars. Youngsters who once cranked out home runs may find a looping softball a bigger challenge to drive over Garr's left-field 'Green Monster.' But this is not about reliving glory days. It's about rekindling a spirit for NYOI that once burned so bright in so many young men and women. For many, the flame has never gone out.

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Thursday, 05 May 2016 15:48

Visit the Dowis building, NYO's admin center, any weekday and you are likely to encounter a mom. She's there to register a child for an upcoming season. She's there to pick up or drop off something her child's team needs. She's there preparing for Opening Day, sorting and organizing uniforms, making sure year-end events go smoothly or tending to countless other behind-the-scenes chores. On-field activities draw most of the attention, but there'd be chaos without our moms.

This Mother's Day provides a timely opportunity not only to thank these ladies, but to reflect on the collective role they play in shaping the NYO experience. For they bring more than their time and hard work to NYO. They bring a moral dimension, too.

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Friday, 15 April 2016 09:34

For as long as most folks can remember, NYO has played baseball on the charming field behind St. John United Methodist Church on Mt. Paran Road. For the last two years, the Rev. John Purrington, who ministers to the St. John congregation as its senior pastor, has managed an International league team that plays most of its games on that field. His players know him as Coach John.

His love of baseball and God, not necessarily in that order, live in his words and deeds. A sign in front of the church announces a sermon series entitled, 'It Ain't Over Till It's Over.' From April 10 to June 26, Rev. Purrington will preach 12 sermons that take 'some of the best Yogiisms to bat with Scripture in the grand game of discipleship,' according to a promotional piece in the church's foyer. 'Yogi Berra was well known for his malapropisms and uncommon wisdom.'  There's also a card inviting church members to come root for Rev. John's International A's, who play 11 of their 13 regular-season games on the St. John field. 

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Tuesday, 12 April 2016 13:59

How many young men and women grew up on the ball fields and basketball courts of NYO?  How many parents coached, served as team moms or volunteered for other tasks?  The answer: No one knows for sure, but it’s in the thousands --- several thousands.

For the overwhelming majority NYO is a warm memory ---a first hit, a great catch, a hard tackle, a clutch basket. For too many, that’s all NYO is. Some return to coach or help out, but most have lost touch. On Saturday afternoon, May 21, NYO will take a tentative step toward reconnecting with ‘alumni.’ Led by a longtime coach and a handful of 20-something former athletes, NYO will stage its first-ever alumni softball game.

Open to anyone over the age of 21 with an NYO connection to baseball, fastpitch softball, football or basketball, players will take the Jane Wilkins Bronco Field starting at 3 p.m. for fast-moving two or three-inning games.  So far, 179 alums have expressed an interest. Details, including team rosters and registration fees, are being worked out. To learn more or to add your name to the list, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Thursday, 31 March 2016 18:37

Six years ago I managed my last game at NYO. Since then, I've had a rotator cuff repaired, a hip replaced (small prices to pay for a lifetime of fun) and I've chronicled the stories of the men, women and children of NYO in these Dugout Doings essays. Two weeks ago an email arrived that reminded me of why I spent two decades coaching.

It came from an old friend who is now --- like me --- a grandfather. He once was a college baseball player, and I greatly admired his skills when we played as 40-somethings in Atlanta's Men's Senior Baseball League. His 8-year-old grandson was struggling at the plate (three strikeouts in his last game and nothing close to a hit yet). Would I mind offering some suggestions? We set a time for after school that day. As I gathered the bag of wiffle balls and dusted off baseball-teaching gear, I felt like a doctor called in for an important consultation. 

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Wednesday, 30 March 2016 11:23

Fifteen years ago, Che Barbour took a walk around Chastain Park and spotted a sign for volunteer baseball coaches at NYO. He and a buddy, Jeff Woolverton, signed up and landed an International team of nine and ten-year-olds. 'We got our butts kicked,' Jeff remembers. 'We had no clue what we were doing,' Che echoes. That's how it started for two of NYO's leading coaches today. 'There's no better person out here,' Jeff says of his one-time roommate. 'It's his integrity. It's what he does for kids. He's not a yeller, but he's not a softy, either. He commands respect.'

Fifteen years later, at 43, Che Barbour is what NYO's growing cadre of 20 and 30-something coaches should aspire to be. Brad Glenn, another long-time and leading NYO coach, pays Che the highest compliment of all. He says he would be proud to have any of his children play on a team Che coaches. Fifteen years is a lot of time to spend doing anything, let alone with children who are not yours.

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Saturday, 19 March 2016 16:56

You could tell she was nervous when she stepped onto the field that bears her name. Even though she was surrounded by family and friends, Jane Wilkins stood alone in the spotlight of NYO Opening Day. For more than 40 years (the last 35 as executive director), Miss Jane has taken care of everyone else. Now, all who love her wanted to say thank you. At the end of this baseball/fastpitch softball season, Jane Wilkins will retire.

'She's not just our executive director,' Baseball Commissioner Cliff Barshay told the crowd. 'She's also one of our finest volunteers and now she's an emeritus board member.' Then, turning to Jane's family, Cliff added: 'We appreciate your letting us have her for 40 years.'

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Saturday, 19 March 2016 16:26

No one makes a bigger deal of Opening Day and no one enjoys it more than NYO Baseball Commissioner Cliff Barshay. Unless, that is, he becomes an unwanted center of attention. Hamstrung by a balky microphone, Opening Day emcee Cliff abandoned his familiar spot on the pitcher's mound of the Jane Wilkins Field and addressed everyone from behind home plate. 

Then Clete McGinty, NYO board chair, needed to say a few words. And that's when the fun started. 'One very special volunteer started here 20-plus years ago (26, to be exact) and he morphed into our baseball commissioner,' Clete began. 'This individual has recruited at least half of our 300 coaches.' As the accolades went on, Cliff melted further and further toward the backstop, tucked in between the Whitefield High School mascot and Will, the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta character.

(To read more, please click on the headline)

Saturday, 19 March 2016 15:37

It's equal parts carnival, family reunion and tailgate party, but it's 100% NYO Opening Day. Grown-ups hug and little boys and girls in baseball uniforms find their places on the outfield grass of the Garr Pony Field. The 4-year-olds seem overwhelmed. 'My team leads the league in crying,' says the coach of one Small Ball team as a tiny player grips his hand. By the time they're 5, 6 or 7-years-old, they're veterans. They high-five the high school mascots and cannot leave Hope and Will, the Smurf-like Children's Healthcare of Atlanta characters, alone.

An alley of parents and grandparents forms between the Garr and Jane Wilkins Bronco fields and the Whitefield High School marching band plays 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,' as a river of players and coaches follows. The kids march behind team banners that carry the name of their team and include each player's name. They decorate their uniforms and themselves with beads and tiny American flags. Bennett Harper, 8, the 'star pitcher' of the Christopher League, according to Leo Rose who runs the program, wears sunglasses and has two tiny versions of Old Glory sticking from his cap.

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Friday, 11 March 2016 11:32

They filter into the still dewy outfield of the Garr Pony field an hour before the parade is to begin. Team banners tell them where to stand, but good luck with that. In tiny uniforms, with their faces painted and wearing Mardi Gras beads that jangle around their necks, the little ones chase each other, pausing only to slap the outstretched paw of a teenager wearing a high school mascot's costume. Music blares from a loudspeaker. Paige Fielden, Margaret Bryant and other moms impose order and, somehow, the parade begins. It snakes out of Garr, down the stairs, behind and back up the other stairs next to the Dowis building. Teams march proudly behind their coaches onto the Jane Wilkins Bronco Field. Balloons and red, white and blue bunting are everywhere, thanks to NYO's moms.  

That's how it goes on Opening Day, always a special day at NYO. But this Saturday, March 19, Opening Day will be extra special. And bittersweet. For it will be the last time Jane Wilkins presides as our executive director. After more than 35 years, Miss Jane is retiring. She agreed to stay on through this spring until her successor, Tony Watkins, could fulfill his duties at Holy Innocents' Episcopal School.  To honor Miss Jane, NYO is staging a homecoming of sorts at noon, immediately after the Opening Day ceremonies. A giant tent will be pitched in the main parking lot. If you've ever been or are an NYO player, volunteer, coach, team parent or family member, you're invited, as are all friends of Jane. So, that's pretty much everyone!

(To read more, please click on the headline)

Saturday, 05 March 2016 11:54

How many of us get to go out on top? Since 2008, Tony Watkins has coached the girls' basketball team at Holy Innocents' Episcopal High School, twice finishing as runnerup in the class AA state championship tourney. On Friday, Holy Innocents' took the state title, defeating Wesleyan, 66-64, in overtime. It's the school's second girls basketball championship, the first since 1999. Later this spring, Coach Tony, 38, will leave his coaching and sixth-grade teaching duties at Holy Innocents' to become NYO's new executive director, succeeding Jane Wilkins.

The Golden Bears went 27-5 in 2015-16, bringing Coach Tony's career win-loss record to 199-42 at Holy Innocents'. His teams qualified for the state playoffs in each of his eight years, wining four regional titles, making the final four four times and finishing as runner-up twice. But this year was THE year. The win over Wesleyan avenged last year's loss in the championship game. The two teams have met eight times in the past two years, with Holy Innocents' winning six of the games.

(To read more, please click on the headline)       

Wednesday, 02 March 2016 11:43

He's an NYO coach and dad with three young children. He grew up playing NYO baseball and even proposed to his wife on a swing in the playground across W. Wieuca Road. Perhaps that explains his enthusiasm for the new playground that has just opened on the site of the old one. 'My kids had been counting the seconds until (it opened and) they could check it out. Yesterday, we ventured up there after practice, and the kids LOVED it. In fact, my 4-year-old wants to have a half-birthday party (there) because she can't wait until November.'

Four years in the making, the new Chastain playground is open and ready for all NYO players, their siblings, friends and parents. An aging playscape (which has been refurbished) has given way to 40,000-square-feet of play space set on six rolling acres just north of the NYO fields. A rustic wooden fence defines the playground and protects children from wandering into traffic. There's a pavilion, complete with an outdoor piano, picnic tables and restrooms. Two side-by-side giant slides are perfect for racing, and there is a wheelchair-accessible treehouse. There's a climbing wall and boulders and tree stumps for scrambling. Three giant 'oodle' swings can accommodate two to three children at once.  A collection of percussion instruments thump and chime. And there is space, lots of tree-dotted green space, for running, jumping or just resting on a blanket.

(To read more, please click on the headline) 

Saturday, 27 February 2016 14:57

Major-leaguers call it spring training. At NYO, we call it an opportunity to see who can do what, to hope it's not too cold or wet to practice and to get ready for a season that is barely two to three weeks away.  On a glorious late-February Saturday (temperature of 54, clear blue skies, a gentle breeze), the NYO fields at Chastain are alive with players, coaches and parents.

Fastpitch softball teams swarm the batting cages. Like a factory at shift change, one team leaves and another quickly takes its place.  There are as many parents on the T-ball field as there are 4-year-old players.  Moms and dads roll grounders to their little ones with cries of 'alligator.'  Those who understand this bizarre instruction slap their gloved hand to the ground and raise their throwing hand in the air so they can snap down on the ball when it reaches them. Think of an alligator opening wide, then swiftly clamping shut its jaws on its prey. Last spring, the weather was so bad many teams opened their seasons without a single on-field practice. This year, mercifully, has been different.

(To read more, please click on the headline above)  

Wednesday, 10 February 2016 12:21

Larry Bennett's been busy. More specifically, Larry and the legions of groundskeepers and volunteers who tend to NYO's fields and facilities have been working mightily to make this year's baseball and fastpitch softball experience better than ever. The biggest news: 109 additional parking spots next to the gym. But there's more: A new scoreboard for the Austin Armstrong Field of Dreams; a much-needed T-ball/Kit Kat field at the other end of Chastain Park, next to the American Legion Post; completion of the multi-use pavilion-pressbox-dugout for the softball fields, plus 'a couple of surprises to be unveiled Opening Day 2016,' according to Larry.

Much of the work is the result of the 2014-15 capital campaign. Larry, a long-time coach, NYO board member and chair and perpetual facilities tsar, oversees every detail, down to the mulch around newly planted trees and in flower beds. The mulch is recycled from trees that came down for expanded parking.

(To read more, please click on the headline) 

  

  

Saturday, 06 February 2016 12:53

Ian Otten, one of our own, has just learned he will represent Georgia in a national contest to select a 'doodle' that will become the artwork for Google's search page for an entire day. Additionally, if Ian wins, he's in line for a college scholaship and rewards for his school, Marist, where he is a 7th-grader. Between now and February 22, anyone can vote as often as he or she wants. Go to: google.com/doodle4google/vote.html#d=3-1. The top vote-getter also will visit the Google campus to meet the online media giant's artists.

Ian, 13, grew up on the sports fields of NYO. In addition to football, he played baseball from the Shetland level to Bronco. He was a member of the 12U Titans and now plays for the 643 Tigers, a travel team. His 'doodle' reflects Ian's love of sports. Each letter of the word G-O-O-G-L-E is a picture of a sports object.

(To read more, please click on the headline)

 

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