Coaching Continuity One of Keys to Pittsfield Little Leaguers' Success
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Peruse the rosters of the 12 teams competing at this week’s Little League Baseball Eastern Regional Tournament, and a common theme emerges.
The players and coaches frequently have the same last names.
In fact, 10 of those teams have at least one coach -- and sometimes all three -- who are related to at least one of the players.
Only two -- Washington, D.C., in the Mid-Atlantic bracket and the Pittsfield Americans in the New England bracket -- break that trend.
Manager Joe Skutnik and coaches Ty Perrault and Pat Bramer do not have a boy on the Pittsfield AL team that Saturday will play for the New England title and a berth in the Little League World Series.
What they do have is decades of experience coaching city youths in the Pittsfield American Little League program Pittsfield South, the program that formerly played at Deming Park before the city's leagues were restructured in 2015.
And together, they provide the continuity that has helped build a legacy of success for the teams that call Deming Park home.
“As president of the league, it makes my job a heck of a lot easier,” Greg Coscia said this week.
“When All-Stars time comes for the practice schedule, we have, I think, it’s been the same for 20-something plus years when Ty Perrault and Joe Skutnik coached their first all-star team. It provides that level of continuity that sometimes is tough to come by.”
There is continuity throughout the AL program, Coscia notes. That includes the volunteers who work behind the scenes to help make the field at Deming Park a showpiece for “house league” and all-stars alike.
“We’ve been fortunate from that perspective, and it kind of helps keep the tradition alive,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re there for Pittsfield and want to show people there’s good baseball here in Pittsfield.
“And it’s not just us. The National Division had a good [all-star] team last year, and a couple of years ago they had a really good team. … And we’ve had a lot of support from the National Division, too. It’s not just Pittsfield American folks down there. There’s been a lot of people coming down. They’re all going to end up together at some point, and a lot of them play basketball together in the off-season.”
National Division President Darren Lee said he coaches some of the kids on the Pittsfield AL All-Stars during basketball season at the Boys & Girls Club. Like Coscia, he knows how intertwined the two “rival” programs are, and he is glad that Pittsfield NL families have been able to make the trip down to Connecticut this week to see the Americans vie for a regional title.
“We compete with each other all year,” Lee said. “I think we go head-to-head hard in the districts. We’ve won it. They’ve won it. But after that, it’s kind of a coming together. We’re all really part of Pittsfield Little League.
“I know we won the district last year and made a good run at sectionals, and I saw a lot of the American League players and families at our games.”
The current two-division alignment for Pittsfield Little Leaguers came into being four years ago, when three separate leagues -- North, West and South -- were consolidated down to two.
Coscia said when the consolidation happened, the number of teams in the city dropped from 17 to 14. The Nats and Americans have been able to maintain those numbers, with seven teams and 84 players in each division, he said.
And although the 13 All-Stars on the field in Bristol this week generate much well-deserved ink, all 168 Little Leaguers in the program helped get them to Connecticut.
“At the end of the day, between the [9-year-olds and 10-year-olds] who play in the Jimmy Fund tournament and the 11-year-old All-Star team … close to 50 percent of the league is playing in some sort of post-season, all-star type environment,” Coscia said. “A lot of those kids see themselves someday being on the 12-year-old All-Star team.”
Like a lot of baseball programs, Pittsfield Little League faces increasing competition from other sports, and coupled with a declining population base, the volunteers at the helm know they need keep working to attract and retain players.
The success of this year’s Pittsfield Americans, including television appearances at the regional and, they hope, beyond, can make Little League baseball look mighty attractive.
“One of the biggest challenges we face in this offseason is to get as many kids as we can to try out next year,” Coscia said.
“We’ve got to think that this [playoff run] will only help. We’ve got to come together as a league next year and leverage this for our recruiting next year.”
“We’ve got a lot of good athletes in Pittsfield who don’t play baseball but could, and maybe this draws them out and gets them interested,” he said.
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