Springtime, along with warmer weather, (finally) comes with some familiar sights and sounds: the resounding crack of a bat, the smell of hot dogs, the crunch of peanuts, and the taste of cotton candy. These are all staples of the experience one has at a baseball game, which has been around for over a hundred years. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that the North Cheektowaga Amateur Athletic Association (NCAAA) decided to start a league of its own.
NCAAA was formed when the two local sports leagues, U-Crest and Maryvale, decided to merge. The decision to merge was based on the fact that the two leagues were pulling athletes from the same pool of eligible players. This caused the two leagues performances to suffer and allowed other teams in the Western New York area to be stronger competitively. With the merger of these two leagues, NCAAA became a force in Cheektowaga.
Gene Pytlewski served as commissioner in North Cheektowaga’s inaugural year. Mehrl King, Barb Hapeman, Dave Costanzo, Dave Lichner Sr. and Nick Vertalino all served as board members and continued into these roles in year two when John Brueckl took Pytlewski’s spot as commissioner.
NCAAA continues to maintain a similar size as it did in its early inaugural years. Hardball boasts about 250 athletes, while softball brings in another 75. Divisions mostly have always been ages 5-6 (T-Ball) 7-8 (Pitching Machine), 9-10, 11-12 and 13-16 (Senior Hardball). Back then, Senior Hardball included only 13 year-olds with 14-15 as a combined division. There was also a 16-18 year old division that served as a travel team which competed against other teams from further areas. Now, the 9-and-under team serves as NCAAA’s lone travel team. Excluding the oldest division, each age group had roughly five to six teams with roughly nine to thirteen players.
North Cheektowaga has mostly been based as a house league. This means that teams are made up of players from a range of skill sets and experience and allows for a more consistent level of parity in each division. In order to see how each player performs, player evaluation days were held that allowed each player to showcase their talents and skills in front of the coaches. The coaches then got together and held a draft to select the players they wanted on their team. Once the teams were selected they went through an approval process by the executive board. This process is still used by NCAAA today.
North Cheektowaga’s home field has always been based behind Tops Markets located on the corner of Union Road and George Urban Boulevard. Back then, there were about seven to eight diamonds in use along with softball diamonds located at 777 Maryvale Drive (now also home to our football teams). This has always been a big advantage that NCAAA holds over other local organizations, as all games (home and away) are played at one location.
The diamonds at the Tops location saw some big improvements and facelifts in 2014. A new T-ball field was built behind Diamond 4, Diamond 2 saw its infield improved along with brand new sod, Diamonds 3 and 4 received new calibrations, dimensions and baselines, and all six diamonds were tilled and rebuilt with new clay layers.
Renovations will be continued into 2015 as concrete dugouts for Diamond 5 are in the works. Along with Diamond 5 renovations, leveling of all diamonds and recalibrating baselines are also in motion.
NCAAA continues to be one of the top youth baseball organizations in the area. If longevity is a sign of success, North Cheektowaga certainly has something to hang its cap on.