Stiber’s commitment to Little League Baseball spans 50 years
NAUGATUCK — The Little League World Series will commence next week for the 70th championship week in Williamsport, Pa.
Little League started out with three teams back in 1939 and has now grown to nearly 200,000 teams in the U.S. and 80 countries around the world. That growth has been fueled by the passion and commitment of volunteers. Characteristics exemplified by 81-year-old Wendle Stiber, of Naugatuck, who has given almost his entire life to Little League.
“It’s been 50 plus years, as long as I can remember,” chuckled Stiber as he tried to downplay his enduring commitment to Little League.
The humble man, who has been the director of Connecticut District III Little League for what seems like forever, cited dedication, patience and the love of the game for keeping him going in a job that runs from April through August, and then some.
“I was born in 1934 and Little League started in Williamsport in 1939,” Stiber said. “We lived two blocks away from the field and I remember my parents taking me to quite a few games.
“I guess that’s where I got the love of baseball from. We moved to Connecticut in 1959. My brother Chester was coaching at the Peter J. Foley Little League in the early 1960s and asked me to come over and help take care of the field.”
That began a commitment to Little League that has lasted over five decades.
Stiber has a busy schedule as director of District III and does his best to attend all the opening day ceremonies. That tends to be a monumental task — the district consists of 13 towns and 32 field locations up and down the Route 8 corridor from Watertown to Milford.
Stiber doesn’t go it alone. He does rely on a staff of nine able assistants, some of which have put in almost the same number of years in District III, including Jeff Clarke of Prospect and Dave Kudej of Shelton.
“The only way it’s going to work is you have to have enough manpower and we have a lot of dedicated people keeping this thing going,” Stiber said. “I try to get to all the fields about four times a year. It’s a job that certainly keeps you hopping.
“What keeps me going is to see the enjoyment of the kids and the smiles on their faces. That makes me extremely happy. It’s all about the kids and then the coaches and parents. If they are happy then we did our job.”
Stiber took in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regional tournaments this week in Bristol before he heads back to Williamsport — the place where his love affair with baseball all began.
“I must say I’m quite surprised at how Little League has grown through the years,” Stiber said. “From three teams to where it is now is simply amazing. But you have years of positive growth and then there are years that are not so productive. I guess it goes in cycles.
“But I always make it a point to get down to Williamsport for the Little League championship game, and I have seen quite a few good teams over the years.”
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Wendle Stiber’s name.