BKW Little League pitches off-season training

EAST BERNE — Partying at the Maple Inn restaurant on Main Street will help fund the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Little League’s winter training.

Money raised with a $5 cover charge during the Feb. 22 fund-raiser will go toward fees for using the school’s gym for softball clinics and dates for baseball tryouts and clinics at Frozen Ropes, an indoor training facility in Albany.

Prizes will be given during drawings for gift certificates to Dick’s Sporting Goods, Schoharie Valley Farms, Subway in Altamont, Fox Creek Market, and Guilderland Wine and Liquor, among many other local businesses.

The Bluestones will perform at the fund-raiser, which lasts from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Kevin Toomey, the Little League’s president, said he’d like to have proceeds from that night cover almost half the cost of off-season training for the league, or $1,000 of about $2,500. All of the money raised on Saturday will be spent on the clinics.

In the winter months, Kara Faraone. a former University of Albany softball player of the Allstars Academy in Latham, has been holding clinics at Berne-Knox-Westerlo.

“It’s always been the biggest problem in our league is pitching,” said Toomey. He said six weeks of instruction has made a huge difference for some athletes.

March 2, 9, 23, and 30 have been reserved for baseball players at Frozen Ropes, well ahead of BKW Little League’s season-opening ceremony on April 27.

“Anybody who wants can come on down and pitch, and throw, and run. Whatever they want to do,” said Toomey of the dates in March.

This year, the Little League is for the first time offering these clinics and training for its athletes in the off-season, hoping to retain interest and improve their competitiveness.  Like many leagues, Toomey said, BKW’s is fielding fewer players, forcing the teams to travel more.

“There’s a million theories,” said Toomey. “Everything from video games to soccer.”

Teams in the Hilltowns used to be able to play each other. The kids went to the same school. The teams were on the same level.

Now, BKW is playing leagues from Guilderland, Colonie, and Albany that train throughout the year. They are all in the same district, number 13, drawn by Little League International, through which leagues get liability insurance as members.

Last year, Toomey said, the 60-year-old BKW league had 10 teams for all of its age levels; nine are projected for the upcoming season.

“You go back to the ’80s and ’90s, there was, like, 26 baseball teams of just BKW Little League,” said Toomey.

Toomey said the league plays with out-of-district leagues to strike a balance between fun and competition. He writes letters to Little League International to do so, but hopes to petition for a redrawing of the district lines. He expressed doubt that it would be allowed to happen.

“In order to compete,” Toomey said, “we’ve got to take more of a year ’round approach, is what we’re thinking.”