Summer is the time for baseball! Who enjoys an afternoon in the warm summer sun while the cheers of a baseball game echo from the local park? We do!
For this month’s column, I spoke with Mr. John Romano, baseball coordinator for the NEAA: North End Athletic Association. Mr. Romano told me about the various programs offered to teach children and teens about baseball and to build teamwork skills through fun. Approximately 150 children, boys and girls, and young adults ranging from ages 4 to 21 participate in the NEAA’s offerings.
“The older age groups tend to be more competitive and partake in traveling events,” Mr. Romano told me. The goal is to not only teach these young athletes about baseball, but to encourage sportsmanship, the love of a game and to foster community connections through the youth population.
The NEAA was founded in 1960 and incorporated in 1961. Mr. Romano explained his personal connection to this organization and his love of the North End.
“My grandparents are from Italy and I grew up on Commercial Street.”
His excitement and devotion to the old neighborhood is evident in his description of the community bonds that are an integral part of the NEAA’s continuous outreach. Several of the coaches also grew up in the North End or have a tie to the neighborhood. A few played baseball there growing up and now their children are playing. This is a great way for generations of local families to stay together through baseball, as well as a way to support the neighborhood.
When I asked Mr. Romano to tell me more about the organization’s events and sponsors he conveyed that ages 4 through 17 plus are encouraged to join. He said, “We seek to provide a positive learning experience while having a good time.”
Two religious societies, St. Anthony and St. Agrippina, provide sponsorships for the NEAA, along with various local contributors who assist in supporting the association. In addition, the annual opening day events and golf tournament are organized to help raise funds for the group.
Mr. Romano told me of a recent experience which the baseball teams participated. In 2012, the NEAA hosted a team of young baseball players from Italy. Mr. Romano spoke of the terrific cultural exchange that took place for all who shared the opportunity. Regardless of language barriers he said, “We all spoke baseball.” This experience exemplifies the family atmosphere that Mr. Romano stated was at the center of the North End Athletic Association’s mission.
The Italian spirit of sportsmanship and excitement built around baseball is evident in the lessons begin taught to this younger generation of athletes. As Mr. Romano pointed out, “Winning at all costs isn’t how we do things.”
That is the true spirit of what it means to be a part of a team and more importantly, how to use sports as more than just a game, but a tool to boost solidarity and fun. This is the very essence of the NEAA, an organization built on the connections to the North End’s Italian community and now thriving and looking to expand their mission of sports and community!