67 years of Little League

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Union City Little League officers, directors and committee chairman are pictured in 1950 next to the little league’s fund scoreboard in Union City center. Kneeling, from left, Leo Moraski, Walter Staskiewicz, Gus Klimaszewski; standing from left, President Thomas Ratkiewich, Harry Monroe, Casimer Posila, Frank Neary and John Mikalchus. –NAUGATUCK DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — For the last 57 years, the home of Union City Little League has been tucked away in the City Hill section of Naugatuck.

The complex on Morris Street features two fields — one primarily for softball and the other for baseball. Some younger fans (and players) probably do not realize that isn’t the first home of the league. It isn’t the second home either.

The league was founded in 1950 on a site near Curtiss Street, not far from what is now known as Linden Park. The first game needed an umpire, and a local 19-year-old named Don Beauchamp was there to assist.

“I lived close by and they needed an umpire,” said Beauchamp, now in his 80s.

He went on to volunteer more of his time as a coach and was there when the league abruptly had to find a new site after the historic flood of 1955.

The next four years were spent on a playing field loaned by Peter Paul. After the move to Morris Street, Peter Paul still served as the home of Union City’s minor league division.

What is now known as the lower field of the Union City Little League complex was dedicated in 1959 and named after Pat McDermott, then UCLL’s treasurer. McDermott was credited for most of the improvements and maintenance of the field and clubhouse that was built on land donated by Joe Joy.

The original baseball teams were the Cardinals, Cubs, Indians and Tigers. By 1967, Union City had expanded to a fifth team — the Mets — to give more boys a chance to play, and ultimately led the coach of the newest team to tell the Naugatuck Daily News they were “hopeful the UCLL Mets will get off to a better start than their National League counterparts.”

The early years had a tradition of a parade that would typically start at the St. Mary Church parking lot. The parade included local dignitaries, police, fire, Boy Scouts, drum corps who marched up City Hill Street to the UCLL field to a ceremony.

By the 1980s, UCLL had incorporated girls softball into the league and has continued to make the game part of its program, according to Paul Kelly, who started volunteering with the softball program at its inception.

Today, UCLL represents all of Naugatuck with its softball program with several age levels.

“It’s where many Naugy girls begin their softball playing,” long-time UCLL volunteer Steve Litke said.

Recently, UCLL’s 9-11 softball All-Stars finished runner-up in the state championship.

In 1985, Union City Little League debuted its “upper” field after selling the house and removing the trees that sat on the property, according to Al Terry, who played in the league and became involved when his first son starting playing baseball in 1979.

The house was lifted and moved to the corner of Morris Street and the entrance to the UCLL complex. It still sits there today.

“I can remember helping cutting all those trees and can still picture them moving the house up the hill of the driveway,” said Terry, who has held various board of director positions and volunteered at the league for over three decades.

The complex today continues to improve and grow, current Union City Little League President Dennis Sigetti said. The upper field now features an updated and more spacious press box behind home plate, a new bullpen along the left field fence, a new sprinkler system and new siding for its buildings.

“It’s a lot of people coming together, donating their time, and donating their money, and raising money,” Sigetti said. “It goes to show you there’s good people out there.”

The purpose of Union City Little League hasn’t changed since the early days along the river in the 1950s.

“The best time you’re going to have in any sport as a kid is Little League,” said Sigetti, who has also coached youth football, soccer and basketball. “And that’s the goal at Union City Little League, for everyone to have a good time playing.”