Tuesday, 22 April 2014 15:01

They're the kind of numbers he might have put up when he played Bronco baseball at NYO. Since March 14, Chesny Young has hit  .465 over 22 games, including an 8-for-10 performance in leading the Mercer Bears to a three-game sweep of Northern Kentucky University this past weekend. He also had five walks, drove in eight runs and scored three times in the series. On Monday, Louisville Slugger named Chesny its National Player of the week, as did the Atlantic Sun Conference in which Mercer plays.

Because Chesny and his two younger brothers grew up on the NYO fields, word spreads quickly about his achievements. Long-time NYO coach Allan Gottlieb scooped everyone with his early-morning Tuesday email. And because Chesny's Dad, Ken, who keeps the NYO website running (in addition to performing countless other tasks) would be the last one to brag (modesty is a Young family trait), Dugout Doings is thrilled to share the news.

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Thursday, 17 April 2014 18:56

He saw me watching their pickup game on a sliver of grass wedged in among downtown Havana streets. I'd just finished a run along the Malecon, a massive sea wall that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. Kids playing baseball, whether at NYO or in the shadow of the Museo de la Revolucion, always provide a good reason to stop and to become a spectator. They played their game with a big wooden bat, a well-worn baseball and just enough gloves for every defensive player.

I motioned to the little guy to throw the baseball, and he did. I caught it and returned the throw, urging him to throw harder. Because I was bare-handed, he hesitated, then trotted over to give me his glove. He borrowed a mitt from another player. As late afternoon turned to dusk, the Cuban kid and the old American guy had a catch. It didn't matter that we were standing near a museum that pays tribute to the Castros and the Cuban revolution. What mattered was that baseball, or beisbol, brought us together.

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Monday, 07 April 2014 16:06

When I wrote this column at the end of last baseball season, wiser heads suggested I put it aside. It focused on one of the most discussed and debated elements of NYO --- all-star teams: how they're assembled and what they represent. More than anything, I wanted to debunk misconceptions. I wanted to offer 'perspective.' 

Things have a way of changing, however. Beginning this year, NYO is rebranding and re-focusing its summer program. At age levels 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13 there will be three teams. Ages 7, 12 and 14 will have two summer teams. More young players than ever before will be able to continue their spring NYO baseball beyond Memorial Day.

NYO's baseball leaders, including Ben Levenbaum, who oversees the summer program, have worked long and hard to find a way to broaden and enrich summer baseball. That they care so much speaks chapters about them.  

Given the number of teams selected for each age group, summer baseball will morph into a program that will continue to compete favorably against the top all-star and travel teams in Georgia. NYO coaches come from the best of NYO's best. Our facilities are tops in the southeast. Our kids (and their parents) know and like each other and will develop even deeper relationships as the summer progresses..   


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Monday, 07 April 2014 12:48

Baseball is not an easy game to learn. As supportive and encouraging as NYO is toward the performance of all its players, there is a correct way to play the game. Learning to throw properly, how to catch a fly ball, how to run the bases takes time and instruction. At every NYO level progress occurs over a four-month season, but there's never enough time to do it all.

That's why long-time coach Jeff Woolverton, former NYO players and other coaches offer Sunday morning clinics on the Jane Wilkins Bronco Field for players aged 9 to 12.  Twelve to 15 players grouped according to age participate in the one-hour clinics. The price is $25 per player for an hour of instruction, considerably less than the $80-$100 other instructors charge.The three-to-one player-to-coach ratio affords ample personal instruction. 'What a streak we're on,' Jeff shouts to the four boys lined up to catch fly balls in the outfield. Marco Brok, a 9-year-old Double-A NYO Angel, dives and makes a sprawling catch. As Marco raises his glove to show it contains the baseball, Jeff yells, 'Sell it (to the umpire) when you make a great catch like that.'

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Thursday, 03 April 2014 09:53

Headsets on, Steve Caffarelli, David Hay and Jeff Woolverton banter as the Royals-Dodgers Bronco game unfolds before them on the Jane Wilkins Field. 'You know you're doing something right when your #8 batter hits one almost all the way up to Wieuca,' David Hay says after the Royals' Charlie Hawk blasts a three-run homer that nearly clears the netting atrop the centerfield fence. It's the top of the second and the Royals are on their way to a big inning. They'll take the lead, give it back to the Dodgers, then rally again for a 19-11 win in a three-inning game that reaches the time limit. 'I've just abour run out of fingers and toes,' David Hay says in signing off. 'I'm not sure NYO folks were expecting 30 runs in three innings.' 

It's 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and baseball is live, via the Internet, from NYO. What began as a silent videocast of NYO football and basketball games over the last year has morphed into a full-blown, once-a-week video/audiocast of a live Broncos game. Three broadcasts into the season, the games are drawing 45 live listener-viewers, but they're getting 400 replays a week, according to Ken Young, the Roone Arledge of NYO. 'This is not high-def(inition), but it's the world for a parent (who cannot make the game).' On this night, Ken reports, there are followers in England, Canada and southern California.

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Saturday, 29 March 2014 11:22

Seven-year-old Lisa Waltuck beams from beneath the NYO Fastpitch Softball visor in the photo from from her first season. She's still smiling as she awaits her introduction at Opening Day ceremonies as an NYO'er who will graduate in a few weeks from Woodward Academy, where she has also played fastpitch. Now 17, Lisa is still playing NYO ball for Brian Steel's Senior Bulldogs. Eleven years after she started, Lisa is wrapping up a distinguished NYO career. She has grown up, literally and figuratively, on NYO's fields.

Her enthusiasm has never waned, according to Fastpitch Softball Commissioner Brian Raley. 'The first person I see every year (regardless of the cold) is Lisa in shorts and a tanktop,' Brian says. (She's) an excellent player and a great kid who's been a fixture out here.'

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Sunday, 23 March 2014 13:20

Thirty years ago, he showed up at the NYO fields in Chastain Park. People knew who he was. When you're a three-time All-American defensive back at the hometown school, Georgia Tech, and a college Hall of Fame inductee, played professionally in the Canadian Football League and lettered all four years as a Tech baseball star, introductions come easily.

For three decades, he's coached his kids and others. He's spent thousands of hours, more likely tens-of-thousands of hours, honing young baseball swings. Yet, Baseball Commissioner Cliff Barshay felt the need to remind the Opening Day crowd 'we have a legend in our midst. He's the gray-haired guy you see here all the time.' On this Opening Day Randy Rhino stands for something more, something special about NYO. In his own words, 'It's family. It's second and third-generations. It's parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. On this day, Randy Rhino will take the field with his 7-year-old grandson, Austin, who plays in the Rookie league, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

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Sunday, 23 March 2014 11:11

Nestled in his Wieuca Road pressbox perch, Larry Bennett shells peanuts and watches the Jane Wilkins Bronco Field form into a rainbow of tiny uniformed players. A bitter winter --- two snowstorms, three nights of single-digit temperatures --- has given way to a brilliant spring day. Temperatures work their way toward 70 degrees. There's green grass on the field, something Larry Bennett and those who tend to our facilities weren't sure would happen on time this year.

Today is Opening Day. It's the day NYO baseball and fastpitch softball officially launch a new season, even if some games have already been played. It's the day little boys and girls in the younger leagues put on their uniforms, festoon them with Mardi Gras beads and march behind banners that list every child's name. Four and five deep, they form an arc around the coffee-brown infield of the Wilkins Field. Always busy, Chastain Park has a special, festive feel to it this Saturday morning.

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Saturday, 01 March 2014 16:03

Like church bells waking a sleeping village, the ping of metal bats signals a new NYO season. You hear the batting cage sounds before you see the fields. Smooth clay infields, freshly lined with chalk and dotted with snow white bases, mean a baseball game is near. Rye grass has yet to turn brilliant green, but it's only March 1, the temperature is 45 degrees and the sky is overcast.

Because of calendar complications (later-than-usual spring breaks and an earlier-than-normal Memorial, Day) NYO has pushed up its season by two weeks for its older baseball teams and its fastpitch softball program. That pre-season practice time was cut short and teams would have to gel under game conditions seemed to matter little to the Bronco Pirates and Yankees, last year's championship combantants and long-time rivals. They took the Jane Wilkins Field in their brand-new uniforms and picked up where they left off. 

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Friday, 28 February 2014 17:10

For four springs we have chronicled Andee Poulos' recovery from an injury caused when a blood vessel ruptured in her brain in January 2011. 'I couldn't walk or speak or smile or do anything for almost two years,' Andee told a ballroom of 750 adults in February. But now she's 'back in school, making straight A's and looking forward to a life of smiles and happiness.'

The saga of Andee Poulos, once an NYO fastpitch softball star and now a poised 17-year-old, continues. Hundreds of good people known as 'Andee's Army' celebrate her remarkable recovery with a 5K run and walk that, entering its third year, has benefited more than 35 families in need of emergency financial help. This year's event is 8:30 a.m. Saturday, March 22, at Riverwood High School, where Andee is a ninth-grader. The race will be over in time to attend NYO's annual Opening Day parade. Another NYO'er, Will Penn, who suffered a like brain injury in 2011, will join Andee as honorary co-director. Will's recovery and return to NYO baseball are equally gratifying. Like Andee, Will is a battler.

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Saturday, 08 February 2014 11:45

To the usual challenges of wet and cold at the start of any NYO baseball and fastpitch softball season we can add this year's calendar. Spring breaks for private and public schools, a later-than-normal Easter and an earlier-than-normal Memorial Day are causing changes in this year's schedule, according to Baseball and Fastpitch Commissioners Cliff Barshay and Brian Raley.

Typically, a big parade and an elaborate Opening Day celebration kick off the year in mid-March. The parade and festivities will occur March 22, but some baseball and fastpitch games will be played starting the weekend of March 1 and 2. The calendar is the culprit.

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Monday, 03 February 2014 17:16

He said he'd played baseball his entire life, but the dad-turned-coach seemed bewildered: 'And now I've got to coach four-year-olds?' Put little ones on a baseball field and anything can happen.There are mounds of dirt to form, blades of grass to pick. Baserunners have run through second base and into left field, headed for who knows where.

NYO starts 'em young.There are skills to be learned, friendships to be made and, above all, fun to be had.Yet, the line between chaos and something called baseball is a fuzzy one. A one-hour practice can be little more than day care, or it can be an opportunity to learn and burn energy. A two-inning game can be agony or it can be the sweetest You Tube video you've ever seen. Coaches make the difference, and this year some of NYO's most-experienced coaches spent an afternoon passing along the wisdom of what it takes to build a team of tykes.

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Tuesday, 21 January 2014 00:00

It's supposed to be sunny and 47 degrees Saturday, balmy by Tryout Weekend standards. A brand-new NYO baseball and fastpitch softball season upon us, it's an opportunity to ponder the year ahead. 

Their tryout numbers pinned to sweatshirts, young players will move assembly-line like through hitting, fielding, throwing and base-running stations. Coaches will rate each child's performance. Some parents, especially dads, will fret over a flubbed flyball or failure to hit a single pitch, but no child will get cut. Coaches will work their way through 12 or 13 rounds of draft choices, assembling a team the best they can. They know their work awaits. It's called 'coaching.' 

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Saturday, 13 July 2013 10:44

Deciding what to put in the suitcase for the trip to appear on Katie Couric's nationally syndicated TV show captures the essence that is Katie Goldberg. 'We put two dresses in with her baseball uniform,' Craig Goldberg says of the suitcase that 'weighed 90 pounds. But they went with one of the dresses, dolled her up and did her hair.'

When you are 12-years-old, win the coveted Kyle Burnat award for the player who 'most embodies the NYO experience,' get selected to play on Randy Rhino's 12U Titans all-star team, pitch, play third base and hit 11 home runs in three dozen games against top-flight pitching (including three in one game) you're big news in North Atlanta youth baseball circles. When you do all those things AND are a girl, you get invited to New York City to appear on the Katie Couric show. The segment featuring our Katie and entitled 'One to Watch' airs at 3 p.m. Monday, July 15, on WSB-TV, Channel 2.

(To continue reading, please click on the headline)      

Saturday, 29 June 2013 10:20

Had things gone differently, it was a fastpitch softball tournament in which Andee Poulos would have played and likely would have starred. A talented pitcher before a blood vessel ruptured in her brain two and a half years ago, Andee and her family have fought their way back. Their story has been told often, most especially at points that chronicle another step forward. The weekend of June 21-22 marked one of those moments.

In what is believed to be the first-ever fastpitch softball tournament hosted at NYO, more than 200 young women played 40 games in three age groups. They came from Alpharetta to Woodstock to play in 'Andee's Army Invitational.' Registration fees, a raffle and donations raised more than $8,000.  But the highlight, according to NYO Fastpitch Softball Commissioner Brian Raley, was that 'Andee was present all day Saturday with her army of volunteers, meeting and greeting fans, players and coaches from other teams.'

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013 15:25

Not too many years ago, he was a little guy racing all over the T-ball field, making every play. An NYO star at every level (although you'd never know it by his self-effacing manner), he helped lead Marist High School to baseball state championships. On Tuesday, Chesny Young was named Atlantic-Sun Conference baseball player of the year. A sophomore, Chesny became the first Mercer Bear to earn the title since his head coach, Craig Gibson, won it in 1985.

Because Chesny would want you to know how his team is doing before he'd talk about his own accomplishments, the Bears are 42-14 and won their first-ever A-Sun regular-season title with a 20-7 record in the 10-team league. They are ranked #2 in College Baseball's Top-25 mid-major poll.  They rank 23rd in the USA
Today/ESPN Coaches Poll of all college teams. A-Sun tournament play begins Wednesday with Mercer the top seed. As for Chesny?

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Sunday, 19 May 2013 20:06

NYO crowned a slew of baseball champions on a rainy Sunday, but one old team distinguished itself, even though its players wielded rakes, rather than bats. Many of its members have been hanging around NYO for years. Some read the email plea for volunteers, put down whatever they were doing and responded. Collectively, their hard work allowed eight of 11 championship games to be played on fields that had absorbed more than 1.5 inches of rain.

Because of them, 7-year-old Jackson Davis of the Rookie Nationals, experienced the joy of belting a home run over the left-field fence of the Blackwell East field in his league's 'gold' championship game. Because of them, Rookie Braves manager Brad Glenn got to see his team win the 'silver' championship before dashing to the airport to catch a once-delayed flight to a business meeting. Because of them, the 13-and-14-year-old American Pony Angels won their championship on the Garr Field in a three-hour, lightning-delayed game.

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Wednesday, 15 May 2013 16:55

When your team is down 7-3 with two outs in the final inning of what may be its final game and rallies to win, 8-7, you 'go from thinking about the post-game speech of 'It's been a good season' to 'what happened?'' Brian Raley, coach of the Major League Honey Badgers, had his speech written in his head. But he scrapped it because of what happened in what he said seemed like four minutes.

Three times on Tuesday night, that scenario --- or one like it --- played out on the fastpitch softball fields of NYO. That it happened in three games that ended within 20 minutes of each other made the evening all the more remarkable. Then again, it's championship week at NYO. Anything can happen. Unlike at Turner Field where fans bail out if the Braves trail by more than two going into the bottom of the ninth, NYO patrons stick around. This was one of those nights they were glad they did.    

(To continue reading, please click on the headline)

Saturday, 11 May 2013 13:52

Were it not for the ponytail that emerges from the back of her baseball cap, you might never know. She steps to the plate in the first inning of a playoff game at the Jane Wilkins Bronco Field and effortlessly drives the ball on a line into center field for a single. Two runs score. Katie Goldberg, the lone girl in the Bronco League, has done it again.

The grace and beauty of Katie's game (she plays shortstop, pitches and bats third for the Giants) is matched only by the unexceptional way teammates, coaches and fans react to her performance. This is not one of those dopey stories about the talented female athlete making her way in a male game. Katie's teammates and competitors only wish they played the game --- on the field and off --- as well as she does. It's also why Katie has been awarded the Kyle Burnat award that honors the 12-year-old 'who most embodies the NYO experience.'

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

Saturday, 11 May 2013 13:00

Ruby Freeman greets five-year-old Nalina Welch by name, takes her hand and leads her into the third-base dugout at the Jane Wilkins Field. It's the final Saturday of the spring season for the Christopher League, an NYO program for children with special needs whose 'buddies,' like Ruby, help them play and enjoy baseball. For every one of the two dozen, or so, Christopher League players, there are two or three buddies, many of whom play baseball or fastpitch softball at NYO.  

Ruby, a junior honors student at Riverwood High School, gave up softball a few years ago, but she kept her commitment to the Christopher League. 'I get the most apologetic emails when she can't show up,' says Leo Rose, now in his 14th year heading the program. It's that dedication that led to Ruby being named the second recipient of the Nick Napolitano award, which recognizes 'the buddy who best exemplifies putting others first.'

(To read more, plesae click on the headline.)   

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