Holyoke Youth Baseball League: History
In 1950 a group of men gathered together in Springfield and decided to organize a baseball league for youngsters between the ages of 8 and 10 years old. This program, as it was initially laid out, would supply teams with complete uniforms and the best equipment available. The group solicited business establishments, civic organizations, social clubs and fraternal organizations to sponsor the teams. It was also agreed that each and every ball team should be adult-supervised. This is certainly one main reason for its ultimate success. In 1950, the league consisted of ten teams.
In 1951, the number of teams grew to 30. One of the teams was a team from Holyoke called the In-We-Go Midgets. The team consisted of youngsters from Elmwood and the Highlands and was organized by Ronald Bennett. The team also benefited from the expertise supplied by Raymond Crowley, a well-known baseball figure in Holyoke during the 1930’s. Sponsorship of this first Pee-Wee team was enthusiastically provided by Nathan Hatez, owner of the In-We-Go Drive-In Restaurant.
After a successful season in 1952, Ron Bennett was approached by many people to enlarge his project and to make the program available to all the boys in every neighborhood in Holyoke. Realizing that it would be too large a venture for one man, he approached the Holyoke Junior Chamber of Commerce and hoped that they would endorse Pee-Wee Baseball and include it as one of their many projects. The Jay-Cees voted unanimously to accept the challenge and they began to organize a 10-team league by putting a Board of Directors into place. The Jay-Cees program was endorsed by the Holyoke Parks and Recreation Commission in January 1953 and within two weeks sponsors and managers for all ten teams had been arranged.
After a successful 1953 season, the Junior Chamber of Commerce Baseball League decided to expand the league to include boys aged 10-12. More sponsors and managers were secured and the Midget League was born.
Years later, a series of cuts of younger players in the Pee Wee Division caused John "Buddy" O'Neill to form the Elmwood Jets and the Mighty Mite Division was born for players 7-8 years old.
Decades later, in 2015, a growing demand for an even younger division gave rise to the Small Fry Division for players 4-6 year olds. The very first season saw over 200 players registered.
Today, the Holyoke Youth Baseball League accommodates about 600 youngsters each year between the ages of 4-14 in four divisions, with over 30 teams.