Principles of Enjoyment and Friendly Competition Are as Strong Today as They Were 25 Years Ago
By James Miranda
Several years had passed since Tom Pasqua had even been to a board meeting for the White Plains Little League (WPLL), but he decided to visit two years ago. Most of the faces were unfamiliar, but not the principles for the league he and many in White Plains had set forward a quarter century ago.
“[When I went back] I was amazed at how well the little league has sustained itself,” Pasqua said. “They were all basically dedicated to the same thing, not much had changed in terms of the board’s outlook on what they’re trying to do for the kids, how they’re going about doing it with all the right principles in place, and it was heart-warming. Probably for the first time it really hit me that all the effort that went into it years ago, had paid off.”
Pasqua founded White Plains Summer Baseball – which eventually became the WPLL in 1994 – back in 1989 after deciding he wanted to sign his son up for baseball. There wasn’t a White Plains little league option at the time, however, and he felt inspired to do something about it because one of his youth baseball coaches helped establish a little league program under similar circumstances when he was a kid growing up in Yonkers.
Pick-up games were essentially what he set up with his son’s friends initially until the word got out and other students’ parents and parents from the community wanted in.
Games were simple with two teams of approximately 15 children, volunteer coaches, and a couple of donations from recreation centers. It snowballed from there, and the program grew as each year passed, resulting in nearly 500 players in 1994.
“I can remember the feeling to this day of how putting on a uniform and going to play baseball was magical,” said Pasqua, who received two charters from White Plains to launch the WPLL in 1995. “What [we] really tried to do was to build a program that would last. I wanted this to stay. I was not looking to make money off it or to do anything else with it, I just wanted it there for all the kids.”
Pasqua remained president until 1998, was succeeded by Rich Massaroni, went back to coaching, and stayed on the board for several years. He explained that in order for the league to sustain itself and children to continue to have an outlet for baseball, he had to leave in some capacity and let others take over.
Current president Jonathan Baumstark maintains the “for the kids” objective to this day. Last year, 929 kids participated in the spring and summer seasons, Baumstark said. It was a 10 percent increase from the year prior and is one of the many examples of how far the league has come since its inception.
But come May 4, Pasqua and Massaroni will be returning to the WPLL in the form of keynote speakers when the league hosts its annual Opening Day Parade at Gedney Field in honor of the 25th anniversary.
The parade will end at Gedney Field where there will be food for everyone in attendance, baseball and softball clinics, and brand new banners unveiled for past district championship teams.
“These kids who were on these teams that won these championships and got to share something special, they can bring their kids and grandkids to Gedney and they can point at these banners, that are going to be there hopefully forever, and say, ‘there’s my name on that banner, I was part of that,’” said Baumstark, who has served as the president for the last four years.
While it was instilled since day one that the league was for the children’s enjoyment and friendly competition, the league’s baseball and softball teams have notched some noteworthy accolades over the years, such as a dozen District 20 Championships and a 10 and under all-star baseball team’s fifth place finish out of 200 teams in the state championships last season.
“It’s a humbling experience, the whole thing is,” Pasqua said. “I know how much the parades and stuff mean to the kids, so to be part of that again and to see it all again is great stuff. I’m so grateful to [everyone] that’s helped along the way. Without the support of community and a lot of people it could have never happened.”