John Genna, a manager for seven years in the Ozone Park-Richmond Hill-Wakefield League, attends the workshop each year. "When I left my initial workshop," he says, "I felt as though I had just learned about baseball for the first time." Other reactions are not quite so extreme. "I like the idea that children respond when you take the pressure off them." says Richard Ross, another manager in Queens who has attended 10 of the Adelphi workshops. "But I agreed with that philosophy all along."
Like Ross, many of the coaches who come to the workshop already believe that Little League should be fun. Weissman concedes, with some dismay, that of more than 1,000 coaches and managers in his district, only 100 attend each year. Bob Dodson, 53, who was at the original workshop and managed a Cambria Heights team for 10 seasons before retiring last year, says, "The ones who really need to attend always seem to find something else to do on that day." It should be noted that many Little League coaches feel that they learn enough in one workshop, a notion that is supported by the fact that more than 60% of this year's attendees were there for the first time.
Weissman also admits that the effects of the workshop on District 27 have been "very subtle." But not quite as subtle as he might think. Last year Bob Yates, president of a Little League in Jamaica, Queens, and a seven-year workshop attendee, tried to abolish scoring in his league's six-to-eight-year-old division. Yates failed because some parents objected, but he thinks he might have enough support to propose the idea again. The Ozone Park-Richmond Hill-Wakefield League postponed this year's tryouts so managers could attend the workshop.
Artie Martello, who is the manager of a team of nine-year-olds in the Ozone Park league, attended his first workshop this year. He has started using tennis balls and has tried to be more creative in his practices. What he finds most valuable, though, is "the philosophical aspect—the idea that baseball has to be fun."
If Weissman has any more doubts about the program's success, he need only speak with Jeffrey Roman, the nine-year-old pitcher for Martello's Giants. In a game this past spring, Jeffrey pitched the first two innings of the Giants' game against the Tigers, another Ozone Park team, and walked more batters than he would care to remember. Martello yelled to him, "Just relax, Jeff. Just throw the ball, and you'll do fine."
Jeff crouched down, then he pulled off his cap and looked skyward beseechingly. When later asked whether he had felt pressured on the mound, Jeffrey assumed the look of a child who can't believe an adult would ask such a stupid question. "Of course not," he replied, and returned to his teammates, who were cheering on a fellow batter. He was swallowed up in the playfulness and laughter of children, just as Weissman would have wanted him to be.