by Jim Whelan
ELIZABETH—The rain held up and the sun came out for the start of North Elizabeth Youth Baseball League’s 41st season on April 12. Teams, coaches, parents, and friends participated in the annual opening day parade starting at the North Elizabeth Train Station to North Elizabeth’s Sissleman Field.
Grand Marshal Ray Vella, who is a supporter of the league, headed the parade along with city officials. Next year the parade will follow the same route, but the field will undergo a $1.5 million renovation, compliments of the city.
The North Elizabeth Baseball League leased the site of Sissleman Field from Rosemont Cemetery in 1967. Back in 2000, the cemetery gave notice that they were not going to renew the baseball league’s lease to make way to build mausoleums. At the league’s request, the city purchased the land from Rosemont in 2003. “The city really pulled through for us,” said current NEYBL President Victor Matos. The current field needs new fencing and better drainage that the NEYBL cannot afford to fix.
Matos has been a part of the league for 20years and still works tirelessly as a coach, dad, president, field maintenance, and every thing else that might come up on a daily basis. “Lou Ballman was the president and kept on asking me to come back every year and I did and here it is 20 years later,” he said. Matos also credits the league’s current administration and the coaches that really helped the league flourish.
North Elizabeth competes in the Cal Ripken Baseball Tournament rather than the Williamsport Little League tournament. In 2004, the 9-year-old team won the state championship and was second place in the regionals, one win away from heading to Aberdeen, Maryland where the Cal Ripken Championship is played every year.
“All throughout the state teams know North Elizabeth,” Matos said during his opening day speech. Quite a feat for a small league with just over 300 players compared to some of their competition that draw from 1,500 players. North Elizabeth’s travel teams play against teams all over the state and across state lines.
Matos credits the good coaching and developing players early in T-Ball for the recent successes the league has made. “We were one of the first leagues to start a fall ball program in the area,” said Matos. NEYBL draws players from all over the city and surrounding towns.
This is the second time in 10 years that the city will construct a new baseball complex. In 1998, the city opened the Trooper Tommy Hanratty complex for the Elmora Youth League after that league lost their lease. The city purchased the vacated Decca Plastic factory and built the Elmora Youth League a permanent home. “With the city building the new field it will ensure that we will have a home for the next 40 years” said Matos.
For the future of the NEYBL, Matos is excited about the new season and the new field. He also said the new field will increase cost to players. The NEYBL will keep the registration expenses reasonable next year for the parents. With a new field, concession stand, new bathrooms, and better drainage system, the North Elizabeth players will match their great baseball with a great field.