Prospect Little League turns 50

Dolores Fusco, wife of the late Leonard J. Fusco, speaks during Prospect Little League’s opening day ceremony in May as league President Larry Fitzgerald looks on. The league is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Dolores Fusco, wife of the late Leonard J. Fusco, speaks during Prospect Little League’s opening day ceremony in May as league President Larry Fitzgerald looks on. The league is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

PROSPECT — When Prospect Little League was first chartered in 1966 under then-President Dick Paolino, the boys of summer played their games on a field behind St. Anthony Church in the center of town.

What a difference five decades make.

Today, as Prospect Little League celebrates its 50th season, there are over 200 children on 19 teams in the league, and they no longer play on a field behind St. Anthony Church. Instead, the young sluggers play on one of five fields at the Leonard J. Fusco Complex on Talmadge Hill Road.

“You don’t last this long without some very dedicated people,” said Larry Fitzgerald, current president of Prospect Little League. “We have second and third generation volunteers who are dedicated to the league and the kids in Prospect.”

The names of just a few of those dedicated people can be found throughout the complex.

The complex itself is named for the late Leonard J. Fusco, who was the driving force behind a group of volunteers that got the land on Talmadge Hill Road from the Water Company to build the complex.

One of the two majors fields is named after retired coach Don Ensero, who hung up his cleats after last season. The other majors field is named Memorial Park, in honor of players and coaches from the league that have passed away.

The tee-ball field is named after District 3 Little League Director Wendell Stiber, who has been involved with Little League baseball for 50 years.

The minors field is named after Fitzgerald, who has been an active volunteer with the league for 30 years.

“We have one other field, that is not named as of yet, for our 13- 14-year-old junior team,” Fitzgerald added.

Fitzgerald took over as president for former President Greg Miller. Volunteering with the league has been a family affair for Fitzgerald, whose wife, Carey, served as league president from 1992 through 1993.

The Fitzgeralds are just one example of the family connections that help to keep Prospect Little League going strong.

“Jim Augelli was a long time coach, and I coached his son,” Fitzgerald said. “Now the son is coaching his son in our Tee-Ball Division. Like I said, we have third generation little leaguers here that keep this program thriving.”

One of the generational husband and wife teams that Fitzgerald pointed to is John and Darlene Novakowski, who cook at the complex’s Snack Shack. Their son, Gary, is a former player who went on to sign a professional contract with the Kansas City Royals in 2008.

Jeff Clarke, who was involved with Prospect Little League for over 10 years before moving over to help with the Prospect-Beacon Falls American Legion baseball team, is now the District 3 Little League assistant administrator and American Legion Zone 5 commissioner. Clarke looks back fondly at his time with Prospect Little League, most of all opening day.

“The best part of playing in Little League is opening day,” he said. “The kids get their name called and they run out onto that field. It’s something they remember for the rest of their life.”

Prospect Little League celebrated its 50th opening day in May. During the ceremony, Fitzgerald presented the league’s Certificate of Charter Golden Anniversary from the Little League home office in Williamsport, Pa.

At 50 years old, Prospect Little League is showing no signs of age.

“Our registration numbers really went up this year,” Fitzgerald said. “The foundation of the league is in good shape with eight tee-ball teams involving 72 kids.”

The Leonard J. Fusco Complex will also be the site of eight All-Star games this year.

“We are pretty excited about hosting eight games in the three divisions of District 3 All-Stars,” Fitzgerald said. “And it couldn’t come at a better time with our league celebrating our 50th season.”