John Habib's City Sports: Pleasant surprises abound for Manchester Central L.L.
In March, when the New Hampshire District I Little League presidents held their annual meeting, Commissioner Don Kirkland asked them to submit their bids to host the state tournament.
"We only received one," said Kirkland.
The lone bid was submitted by Manchester Central president Sally Dreckmann, who never expected it would turn into one of the best decisions she's ever made for her league.
"I submitted a $500 bid just to get the ball moving," said Dreckmann. "Not only am I happy we're hosting the state tournament, but we got it at a relatively low price. Usually the bidding for the state tournament gets as high as $1,500 and even $2,000."
Beginning on July 20, Manchester Central, the oldest chartered Little League (1949) in New Hampshire, will host the 11-12-year-old, 10-11-year-old and 9-10-year-old state tournaments.
Weeks after the meeting in March, Kirkland said other leagues around his district started submitting bids to host the state tournament.
"I rejected them all, told them they had their chance in March," said Kirkland. "The state tournament will be held at Manchester Central in the very capable hands of Sally Dreckmann."
Kirkland, a Derry resident, has a working Little League relationship with Dreckmann of 20 years.
"People probably don't remember she worked many years with Easter Seals helping underprivileged kids," said Kirkland. "She's always had that drive and passion to help kids. She's also been very supported of the Jimmy Fund program and she has served as a safety officer for Little League baseball for many years. The job she's done as president at Manchester Central has been outstanding."
The Queen City Rotary Club recently honored Dreckmann with its 2013 Service to Youth Award.
"I was totally surprised because I don't do this for awards," said Dreckmann. Her service to the Central Little League spans 18 total years, the last 14 as president. Her league provides baseball for 300 youngsters, many of them inner city kids who can't afford the registration fee to join the league.
"I've never turned away any kid since my time as president," said Dreckmann. "If a kid can't afford to pay the registration fee, that kid still plays. Every child should experience the chance to play Little League baseball."
This season will mark the third time Manchester Central will host the state tournament under Dreckmann's tenure as president. The previous two were in 2001 and 2003.
In April, Dreckmann invited Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to kick off the league's 64th season.
Weeks later, Dreckmann received a phone call from the Manchester Parks and Recreation Department.
"They told me I needed to move my games from the major field for two weeks (June 11-24)," said Dreckmann. "They told me they needed two weeks to renovate the field for the state tournament. I didn't go to them. They came to me and I suspect Mayor Gatsas made that phone call."
Dreckmann estimated the city spent $15,000 over a two-week period turning Gill Harris Field on Lincoln Street into a first-rate complex.
The trees around the outfield were trimmed. Workers re-painted the foul pole in right field and replaced the left field foul pole with a new one. The baseball lines were widened to four feet and the infield was re-cut, re-seeded and fertilized — something Dreckmann said was never done once in her 18 years in the league.
"They sodded the areas they over-cut in the infield and in the coaches' boxes," said Dreckmann. "They installed an extra sprinkler in left field and last, but not least, they gave us a brand new home plate dish."
The league will also be getting a yellow plastic safety cover that will line the top of the fence to protect players reaching over for any fly ball or popup. Dreckmann also lauded the Rotary Club for grooming, weeding and building a new fence along the walkway entering the field.
"We just had some rain and the new drainage took care of it," said Dreckmann. "I couldn't be happier, it's like a mini Fenway Park."
The beauty of it all is that Central Little League would not have received its facelift had it not been for Dreckmann's lone bid at the Little League meeting in March.
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ACROSS town, the Manchester West Side Little League will be competing in the state's first 50/70 Intermediate Little League tournament at Cullerot Field.
Kirkland said the best-of-five series between West and Pelham will begin Tuesday in Manchester. West will host Game 2 on July 11 before the series shifts to Pelham for Game 3 on July 12 and a possible Game 4 on July 14. The fifth and deciding game would be played in Manchester on July 16.
Standard Little League fields feature the pitching rubber 46 feet from home plate and the bases 60 feet apart. The 50/70 Intermediate baseball field, said Manchester West president John Ryan, features a pitching rubber 50 feet from home plate and bases 70 feet apart."It's designed to transition players from the standard Little League field to a larger baseball diamond," said Ryan. "I want to thank Manchester Parks and Recreations Department for helping us with this project."
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IT'S TIME the state Babe Ruth baseball committee combines Districts I, II and III and develops a round-robin tournament. That way each team plays at least four or five games and the top two or four teams advance to the state tournament.
The current setup has many district tournaments either with two or three teams and a few with none. Years ago, district tournaments would have a minimum of four teams and some as many as six.
The 15-year-old Manchester Tom Woodlock All-Stars. coached by Lenny Pappas, will be hosting Londonderry in a best-of-three District II series beginning today at 11 a.m. at Livingston Park. Game 2 is slated for Sunday at 11 a.m. and if needed, Game 3 will follow around 2 p.m.
The 14-year-old Manchester Mickey Hanagan All-Stars. coached by Hanagan, will play Nashua in a best-of-three District II series beginning today at 7 p.m. at Michele Park on 200 Lawrence Road in Salem. Game 2 is Sunday at 4 p.m. and if needed, Game 3 to follow around 7 p.m.
The Manchester 13-year-old Ray Lebel All-Stars will be idle until the state tournament later this month in Rochester. Manchester will be hosting the 13-year-old regional tournament beginning July 27 at Gill Stadium. The team will be coached by Tony Doucet.
Goffstown's Allard Park is hosting both the District III 13- and 14-year-old tournaments this weekend.
Goffstown, Concord and Bow are the 13-year-old tournament teams. Laconia, Lamprey River and Goffstown are the 14-year-old tournament teams. Game times today at Allard Park are 10 a.m. in the 14-year-old tournament and 1 p.m. in the 13-year-old tournament.
Bedford is hosting a best-of-three District I series against Keene beginning today at 7:30 at Riley Field. Game 2 is slated for Monday at 7 and if needed, Game 3 is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m.
"City Sports" is published Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff sports reporter John Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org.