Inside Events: Babe Ruth League, Inc.
7 Aug, 2019By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Robert Faherty, VP National Commissioner
Babe Ruth League, Inc. is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to developing better citizens by providing properly supervised baseball and softball competition for four- through 18-year-old players.
Babe Ruth League also offers a Bambino Buddy Ball Division for organizations who wish to charter a league that encompasses players ages 5–20 who are either physically and/or mentally challenged. This division makes allowance for a “buddy” to help the player swing a bat, round the bases, catch a ball, etc. There are no restrictions to the age of the “buddy.”
It is the basic intent of Babe Ruth League that every player who has a desire to play the sport at any level is given the opportunity to participate and have fun.
Sports Destination Management: Children’s baseball and softball are such a great traditional part of summer.
Robert Faherty: They are, and we try to focus on the game, the teamwork and having fun. Everyone should get the chance to be a kid. You sometimes hear kids say, “I got cut from the team.” Nobody’s getting cut here. It’s all about participation.
SDM: There’s a lot to be learned by being part of a team.
Faherty: There is, but we also want to give them life lessons, and something that will last for a long time. In the big picture, our goal is to provide the path through the game while we’re tea baseball and softball. For example, we’ve done campaigns against smokeless tobacco. We figure if have kids out on the field for two, two and a half hours a day, we can do our part. Someone else has to do the other 22 hours.
SDM: Is it hard to get kids to commit to baseball or softball?
Faherty: There’s always a lot going on when it comes to families and kids. It’s worthwhile for us to offer these programs because we’re s engrained in so many communities. We’ve managed to make it grow, not just in terms of communities and teams but in terms of having a really positive effect on players. But it is tougher and tougher because there are so many worthy causes now that families can get involved with: 5K walks here, fundraising programs there – it all involves the family.
SDM: Is it at all challenging to overcome parents’ apprehension that something might happen to their kids?
Faherty: We require our umpires to be certified and we do background checks on all our coaches. Plus, we’re a nationwide organization. It tends to help put a parent’s mind at ease when they are enrolling their five- or six-year-old.
SDM: What participation trends have you noticed in Babe Ruth League?
Faherty: Participation is changing. Our numbers are still strong at the youngest levels – five, six and seven years, but as they get older, there’s a lot more things available to them in high school. There’s also just a lot more sports out there that kids can play, like lacrosse or ice hockey if they want to. Year-round sports can also pull kids away. Even travel organizations are starting younger.
SDM: Babe Ruth’s focus is on the recreational aspect of the game, but you also offer a World Series.
Faherty: We do. They’re set up the old-fashioned way – you have to earn your way up the trail. You play in local games in order to get to the state championship – and believe me, states are a big deal. Then state championship winners go on to play in regionals – we have eight regions. The regional winners compete in the World Series. We have five softball world series and eight baseball world series. If you win a world series one year, you get an automatic invitation to play the next year.
Something we do that is different from other organizations is that once a team has won a regional tournament, we pay their travel to the World Series. We spend our fair share of money on that, but it’s really not fair to say, “Congratulations, you won; now pay up so you can go to the World Series.” We have a lot of kids from single family homes and they would need a lot more time to get together the money to travel. We want them to play, not have their families worry about how they’re going to get them there.
SDM: How do you choose World Series locations?
Faherty: It all starts with having the right location. We host World Series training for potential hosts. We ask them to work with local government and tourism organizations to create the funding to make a bid. Sometimes, we find locations we really like – we’re in Branson through 2022 with the Cal Ripken Major 7s.
Note: Those who are interested in hosting a World Series can learn more here.
SDM: What is the economic impact like?
Faherty: Last year, in Branson alone, we had a $2.3 million impact for a 10-day event. I would say conservatively, there can be $1.2 million and more coming in from a 10-team tournament. We work on events at least two years ahead of time, so people do capital improvements. It’s the genesis of providing opportunity.
Something we also try to do when we put on the World Series is provide an experience where kids can learn something, too. For example, we held one World Series in Texas, right on the border. We wanted our kids to see that we're all the same people, just from different communities. There was a lot of interaction and it was all great. We’re not trying to make political statements; I work with Republicans and Democrats and we stay true to our mission of opportunity-based baseball programming.
SDM: Speaking of opportunity, you have the Bambino Buddy Ball Division.
Faherty: We ask our kids who are playing to be the buddies to these kids who might not get outside, get fresh air or play the game. And when you watch it, it’s just classic. At first, there’s all this apprehension. The kids who’ve never played before are nervous and they’re afraid to go out on the field. One inning later, we have kids all over the place. Everyone wins something in that event.